- Taking personal responsibility for your finances and retirement planning is important. But there are a few situations where you may want to seek out professional advice.
- If you're young, self-employed, or have a high income or net worth, it could be a good time to sit down with a CFP.
- Talking with a financial planner could also be a good idea if you're looking for impartial advice or simply have no interest in being a hands-on investor.
Financial advisers and planners can get a bad rap. When it comes to investing and planning for retirement, you don't have to look long to find a flood of bloggers telling you that "you can just do it yourself."
And, technically, they're right. But just because you can do something yourself, doesn't mean that you always should.
I probably could figure out how to lay tile. But I chose to hire professionals when I remodeled my kitchen.
In the same way, there are times when it may be smart to get professional advice about your finances. If you're in any of the following situations, you may want to consider sitting down with a certified financial planner (CFP).
1. You're young
When I was in my senior year of high school, my dad set up an appointment for me to sit down with the CFP who handled his investments.
The experience was incredibly enlightening and insightful. Even though she must have known that I probably wouldn't have any meaningful amounts of money to invest any time soon, the CFP I met with took her time with me.
She listened to me as I shared my financial goals and she looked at how much I currently had saved. Then she asked how much I was making at my part-time job and estimated how much my college education would cost.
Then she transitioned into the planning phase of the discussion. She showed me the budget I would need to follow if I wanted to graduate debt-free. And she estimated how much I would need to invest each month throughout my life in order to retire comfortably.
At that time, I didn't really understand the power of compound interest. But that meeting really opened my eyes and helped me start taking my finances seriously.
2. You need impartial advice
Even if you feel fairly competent with your finances, you may still want unbiased advice from time to time.
Questions like, "Should I pay off my debt before saving for my child's college?" or "Should I invest extra income or use it to pay down my student loans?" are difficult ones to answer.
On the one hand, you may not feel comfortable talking about some of these financial issues with family and friends. But at the same time, it can be good to seek outside guidance. Sometimes an outside party can identify danger zones that we don't notice ourselves because of personal blindspots.
If you're just looking for one-time advice, then you'll want to find a CFP who bills by the hour. For ongoing advice, it will probably be more affordable to find a CFP who charges on an annual basis.
3. You have no interest in managing your own investments
Personal finance nerds like me love to evaluate investments and compare their costs and returns. But there are a lot of people who would rather do just about anything else than deal with their investment portfolio.
My uncle, who's a middle-school history teacher in Orlando, Florida, falls squarely in this category. He knows nothing about investments and he has no interest in learning (despite my pleading).
My uncle has told me how grateful he is that his CFP keeps an eye on his portfolio for him and makes sure that it's moving in the right direction. He realizes that without his CFP, the cash in his 403(b) would probably still be just that ... cash.
You may have a similar personality and, right now, aren't giving your retirement portfolio any attention. If so, hiring a financial planner may be one of the most worthy investments that you make in your financial future.
4. You're self-employed
Self-employment opens up a lot of opportunities for retirement planning. But a lot of those options can be complicated.
For instance, as a self-employed business owner, you could save more tax-sheltered money each year by starting your own retirement plan, like a SIMPLE IRA, SEP IRA, or Solo 401(k). But knowing which plan is right for you will depend on your income and whether or not you have any employees. If you're self-employed, a financial planner could help you find the retirement plan that fits your situation best.
And they can provide financial advice beyond just investing. For instance, a financial planner could advise on whether or not you need business insurance or if you should consider incorporating.
5. You have a high income or net worth
If you're a high earner, you may run into some unique issues that most individuals don't need to worry about. Depending on how much money you make, investing in a Traditional IRA or 401(k) (that offers a tax deduction now) could be a smarter move than the Roth alternatives.
Or what if your annual income is so high that you don't qualify for a Traditional or Roth IRA? In that case, it may benefit you to use some advanced tax-saving strategies.
Similar complexities can pop up when you have a high net worth. A financial planner can give you the tax and estate planning advice that you need to protect the wealth that you've worked so hard to build.
The bottom line
Not everyone needs to sit down with a financial planner. But if you belong to one of the groups above, it may be a good idea.
Don't ever be afraid to ask for professional help. We all do it every day with our home remodels and car repairs. You certainly shouldn't be ashamed to do it with something as important as your financial planning.