Is a Financial Planner Right for You?
By Grace Longo, ChFC, CRPC, CLTC
Since I am a chartered financial consultant who frequently presents at planning for wellness conferences, people often ask me if they should be using a financial planner. As you begin another year, and get another year closer to retirement, now could be the time to consider this question. Let’s start by understanding the services a financial planner provides.
Financial planners analyze your financial picture and suggest the best way for you to save, invest, and grow your money. A good one will take the time to truly understand your financial situation and goals, and help you develop a realistic plan to achieve them.
How do financial planners typically charge?
As with other professional services, financial planners charge an hourly or flat rate (usually referred to as “fee-only”), or charge what are called commissions, a transaction-based fee you pay each time an investment is bought or sold on your behalf.
The flat fee you pay may be based on a percentage of the total amount of your assets your planner manages (e.g., 1%). Some prefer to pay the flat fee because they believe it minimizes the possibility that the planner will buy and sell investments simply to generate commissions rather than make investment decisions based on what’s best for you.
Tips for finding the right planner:
Ask friends for recommendations and, of course, look online.
The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors will give you qualified leads to consider, but be aware that they are fee-only. Also check out garrettplanningnetwork.com, which lists hourly-based, fee-only financial planners.
Make sure they have the proper credentials.
Consider working with a planner who is either a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC). You can verify credentials on cfp.net or theamericancollege.edu. You may also want to check the background of an investment professional through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) at www.finra.org. Using FINRA’s BrokerCheck tool, you can search by the stockbroker’s name or firm to obtain information about the broker’s background and qualifications.
Beware of people who brag about beating the market.
No one can guarantee future performance. Advisors who boast that they can achieve a percentage of growth higher than the growth of the market itself may be taking risks with your money that are not appropriate for you. You want an advisor who works to reach your goals, not theirs.
Before meeting with a financial planner, pull together all of your financial papers: income statements, recent investment and bank statements, a list of your assets (home, cars, etc.), debt (mortgage, student loans, credit card balances) and any estate planning documents. The more informed your initial conversation, the easier it will be for you to determine if a planner is right for you. Be sure to ask for references from his or her current clients whose goals and finances might be similar to your own.
For a one-on-one financial discussion with me, Laurence Dresner, or Anna Molin, call (888) 735-7114, Monday-Friday, 8:30AM-8:00PM ET (excluding holidays).
Happy New Year, and happy planning!
Grace Longo has a passion for educating people, then helping to design strategies to protect their financial futures. For more than 25 years, she has studied the many ways annuities and life insurance can be used to provide financial security and stability for individuals and their families. She’s driven by the desire to help others achieve their financial goals.