In the past, people thought financial advisors were only for the very rich or for those in financial trouble. More recently, the focus on retirement preparation has increased the demand personal financial coaches. Nowadays, certified financial advisors help with a wide range of money questions, from How should I invest for my kids education? to What s the best way to pay the least taxes?
Of course, just because money coaches have expanded their areas of expertise and service does not mean everyone needs to hire one or that everyone needs regular financial coaching. After all, these advisors charge for their services, making them a pull on your budget themselves.
If you are in deep debt, you may need a debt consolidation service, which sometimes includes counseling. However, if you re simply wondering if it s worth your hard-earned money to hire a financial coach to help you manage your hard-earned money, ask yourself these ten questions:
1. Are you going to be financially ready to retire? One of the main reasons to get a financial coach is to prepare for retirement. While there are retirement calculators and advice articles online to help you, a financial planner can look at your entire money situation to help you determine your future needs; plus, they may have done research about what retirees will be facing in the next few decades as well as the best investment strategies for you. A couple in their fifties needs a different preparation plan than a single man fresh out of college.
2. Do you get a tax refund every year? It might seem like a great deal to get a tax refund in the Spring, but what it really means is you ve been overpaying your taxes. It s like giving someone an interest-free line of credit for an entire year. That s not a big deal if you re fine supporting government spending this way, but if your taxes were properly calibrated, you could put that extra money into an account that earns you interest and pays you more in the long run. A financial advisor can look at your tax records to help you determine the best number of withholdings to claim as well as the best investments (some of which may be tax deductible as well.)
3. Do you know how much your investments are costing you? We always think of investments in terms of earning us money, but there are costs involved, too. Are you getting the best deals on management fees and the best returns compared to other investment strategies? If you aren t sure, a financial advisor can look at your investments, compare them to other companies and make recommendations.
4. Do you have a will or trusts set up in case of your death or incapacitating illness? Planning for the future means more than planning for a relaxing retirement. Debilitating illness or old age may mean you need special care. Who will handle your finances and how? Upon your death, how do you want your assets distributed? A financial planner is not a lawyer but generally understands asset planning like this and can advise and steer you in the right direction, either to hire a lawyer or create your own will. (For more on will creation, see our will software reviews.)
5. Have you come into a large sum of money? Most of us are comfortable managing our day-to-day financial situation but don t know the best way to make the most of a large windfall, whether it s a big bonus, an inheritance or winning the lottery. Financial advisors can assist you in determining how much to invest and where, and how much to put into paying off debts. (It s not always the best decision to pay off all your debt first. Check out our article for more information.)
6. Are you just no good with money ? Some people have a hard time saving, or they are always in debt. If your credit card balance is high and your 401K low, you might benefit from a money coach who can help you analyze your spending, help you create a budget and recommend simple investments to get you on the road to financial prosperity. If you are in severe debt, a financial counselor may be able to save you from having to declare bankruptcy. Of course, you ll need to do the work (including resisting temptation to spend more), but they can provide leadership and accountability.
7. Are you in financial trouble? You don t have to be bad with money to get in over your head. Sometimes a family emergency or medical crisis can affect your finances as well as other areas of your life, and when you are under stress emotionally and physically, it might be hard to make good financial decisions. An advisor can give you impartial advice.
8. Are you ready to invest but don t have the time or interest to put into studying the market? Before you toss your money into random investment or follow the advice of your Uncle Bob who seems to know what he s doing, consider seeking a professional. Financial planners are certified and have experience in investment strategies. Likewise, if you are investment-savvy but don t want to take time out of your week (or each day) to follow the stock market and make investment decisions accordingly, a financial advisor can handle that for you.
9. Is your family situation undergoing a big change? Marriage means the combining of income; divorce, the separation of funds and possible alimony and child support. The birth of a child brings new responsibilities for his or her future, not only for college but for having an emergency fund in case you lose a job or an expensive event (accident, major illness) happens. It also means changing documents such as your will, which have financial components. Financial counselors can help you plan for or deal with these family changes that also affect you monetarily.
10. Are you starting or expanding your business? Financial planners with expertise in small business can advise you on how to handle personal vs. business funds, including protecting your personal assets should your business experience trouble. They may also be able to advise you on the best ways to help your business grow financially.
Raymond Mignone, a certified financial planner in Little Neck, N.Y. told Investopedia this rule of thumb for deciding when you need a financial coach: "When you reach a point in which you're constantly afraid that you're going to make a mistake with your investments, then you need professional advice." If you still aren t sure about whether or not to hire a planner or do your planning on your own, check out our article on the advantages and disadvantages of a professional financial planner.