Working with a Financial Planner
Some people cannot deal with the facts and figures of their financial life, either because they have no facility with numbers or they find the task too daunting and depressing to deal with. For those folks, soliciting the services of a financial planner may be the way to go. Of course when the objective is to save money, why take on the additional expense of hiring someone to help you save money?
The truly frugal will do it themselves, even if it requires an intensive course of study. There is a lot to learn, but these days we are lucky to have the Internet. We do not need to attend seminars, visit libraries, or take courses, valuable though they are. Today you do not have to get out of bed (if you have a laptop) and the world comes to you. If you are intent on saving as much money as possible, this would be a good path for you. However, if you do not trust either your financial acumen or your motivation to do the necessary homework, then hiring a financial planner is best.
Finding a Financial Planner
There are many financial planners out there, and finding one may be a daunting task. Do not randomly pick a name from the phone book or a Web site. Word of mouth is a good place to start. Ask around among friends and coworkers. Chances are one or more of them have used the services of a financial planner at some point. If it was a positive experience, you will have someone to contact; if not, then you have a name to scratch off your list.
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When you have a list of several names, you should set about interviewing them. Come to the appointment with any questions you have. During this getting-to-know-you session, you will determine if you and your potential financial planner have the rapport needed to work together—not necessarily a personal chemistry but rather a shared financial philosophy. If you are conservative with your money, you do not want to hook up with a maverick speculator. If you are willing to take risks, you do not want someone who will talk you out of bold moves at every turn.
You can conduct your initial interview on the phone or in person. In person is usually the best. There is nothing like looking into the eyes of someone who will be handling your money and getting a feel for their character. Also, this initial session should be a free consultation. A reputable financial consultant is confident enough that he or she will be able to sell their services to you. No payment should change hands until you decide that this is the person for you.
When you have a candidate in mind, do not feel funny about running a background check on them. They should provide verifiable references and be willing to show you a document called a Form ADV. This proves they are licensed to practice financial planning in your state. If the planner is a lawyer, check the state bar association; if he or she is a certified public accountant, you can consult the state accountancy board.
Do not forget to check with the Better Business Bureau to see if your candidates have been contacted about the financial planner's ethics.
The fees charged by a financial planner can range from $100 an hour to $300 to $700 for a comprehensive financial plan. You can decide if you want a fee-only planner or someone who works on commissions. Advisors who work for commission may advise you to make investments in which they have a vested interest, making these candidates less than objective. If that is a concern to you, then go with a fee-only financial planner.