I’ve been writing and researching articles on finance and money for most of my career, and covering retirement for the past 15 years. But my wife and I haven’t picked a stock or mutual fund for our own retirement accounts since the late 1990s, or written our own retirement plan. For that, we rely on a financial planner.
Hiring a planner is one of the smartest financial moves we have made. This type of advice was once a subset of the wealth management business, which — as the name suggests — was available mostly to the wealthy. But over the past couple of decades, financial planning has become more accessible to average folks, and its approach has become far more professional and holistic.
The most encouraging development has been sharp growth of the best type of advice you can get, which comes from planners who are fiduciaries — a term that applies only to advisers who are obligated to put the best interests of clients ahead of their own. Technology has automated some of the most basic planning functions, which has helped to bring down the cost of advice. And, the fees charged by good planners will be more than covered by the value of the advice they provide.
However, you must step carefully here. The landscape is littered with people who call themselves financial advisers and planners. Unfortunately, a muddled regulatory landscape over the past two decades has allowed many of the large broker or agent sales units of the biggest Wall Street firms, including banks, mutual fund companies, and insurance companies to continue peddling commission-based stock brokerage as financial advice, which it is not. You can also find plenty of people selling dangerous exotica like cryptocurrency.
Reasons to Get Professional Help
Here are some of the most important challenges that financial planners can help you solve — and the key benefits of engaging them.
Manage complexity. You’ve probably noticed that your financial affairs become more complex as you get older. By the time retirement comes into view, you probably have a mortgage, and perhaps other debt for your car, credit cards and maybe even old student loans. If you are trying to play catch-up on retirement savings, there are questions to answer about investment vehicles and contribution rates. You might be balancing your own needs against those of adult children who need your help paying for their education or other financial needs.
Manage the transition to retirement. Planning for retirement is fairly straightforward when you are …….