Working With a Financial Planner

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The financial world is complex and growing more so over time. Laws and regulations, circumstances, and life itself change. Whether you have increasing financial responsibilities, have experienced a significant life event, are in a career transition—or simply want to know if you’re on track to meet financial goals — a financial planner may be an important resource.

Why Work with a Financial Professional?

Training. Financial planners are trained to identify needs and navigate the complex waters of markets and products. It’s a jungle out there!

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Experience. Knowing what you should do is only the first step to doing as you ought to do. Like anyone, I’ve googled medical questions to take care of myself and my family. That doesn’t confer a medical degree. Beyond the information is the experience and licensing required to implement the information appropriately to individual circumstances.

Continuing Education. The financial world grows more intricate every day as new products and services are introduced. Legislative changes can also have a substantial impact on investment and tax planning strategies. It takes professionalism to monitor developments on an ongoing basis and assess how they might affect financial plans.

Big Picture. A financial plan isn’t a collection of unrelated documents. Together, the areas of planning tell a story… your story. The best plans are integrated and interwoven. This can be especially important for business owners or those with complex tax issues.

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Follow up. Plans are no more fixed in place than are our lives. To be relevant, they must be reviewed and revised as life evolves. Too many financial plans suffer from neglect. A professional knows that reviewing progress of plans is the best way to ensure they will be effective when needed.

When to Consult a Professional?

As mentioned above, financial planning is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Most people realize the need for an update to their plans during significant life events including:

  • Marriage, divorce, or death
  • Birth or adoption (growing family)
  • Buying or selling a business
  • Changing jobs or careers
  • Considering retirement
  • Receiving an inheritance or financial windfall

Make the Most of a Professional’s Expertise

Understand how a financial professional is compensated for services. Some receive a fee based on an hourly rate (usually for specific advice or a financial plan) or on a percentage of a portfolio’s assets and/or income. Some receive a commission from third parties for purchased products. Others may receive some combination of fees and commissions, while there are those who simply receive a salary from their financial services employer. Don’t be reluctant to ask about fees—financial professionals shouldn’t hesitate to explain how they are compensated.

Don’t be pressured into making a financial decision you’re not comfortable with or don’t understand. This is your money, your decision and your future. Also try to be timely with decisions so you don’t get caught in “analysis paralysis.”

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Clarify the areas in which you’re looking for assistance. Ask questions. Your plans should take into consideration your financial goals, your time horizon for achieving each one, your current financial and emotional ability to tolerate risk, and any recent changes in your circumstances.

Think about the scope of the services you’ll need. Do you want comprehensive help in a variety of areas, or would you be better off assembling a team of specialists? Do you need an ongoing relationship, or can your needs be taken care of on a one-time basis?

If you feel you need detailed advice from several different specialists—for example, if you own your own business—consider whether you might benefit from having someone who can coordinate among them. A financial professional can help assemble a team to help with specific aspects of your finances, such as accounting, tax and/or estate planning, insurance, and investments.

The sooner you get your questions answered, the sooner you’ll be able to pay more attention to the things—family, friends, career, hobbies—an organized financial life may help you enjoy.

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