I often get asked how to find and vet a financial planner. Just as often, I find myself talking to someone who doesn’t have a financial planner but, from their description of their situation, clearly needs some professional financial help … they just don’t know it yet.
While MOAA doesn’t sell financial products or develop personalized financial plans, we can serve as a trusted source of information on all manner of financial topics, including this one.
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Do I Need Professional Financial Advice?
Let me clear up a myth I encounter often: Financial planners are not just for the ultra-wealthy, or only for sophisticated investors. It’s my belief that anyone going through any kind of transition can use some type of financial planning help.
Some of these life transitions are obvious: separating from the military, for instance, or retiring from your working career. Others are less so: planning for your child’s education, blending households, or leaving the workforce to become a stay-at-home parent or caretaker.
These are all decision points where financial moves that you make – or don’t make – can be critical. You can set yourself up for success or start on the wrong path and have to play catch-up.
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What Type of Adviser Do I Need?
There are essentially two kinds of ways to get financial advice: online, through a so-called “robo-adviser,” or in-person, which these days can include virtual meetings and online communications.
Base your choice of adviser type on both your budget and the complexity of your financial situation.
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Why Might I Choose a Robo-Adviser?
Robo-advisers are digital platforms that collect information and then use automated programs to offer advice and automatically invest client assets. These platforms are easy to use, usually require low opening balances, and have fairly small fees based on the client’s balance.
Because they make all the portfolio investments and decisions, they aren’t for someone who is very hands-on or wants advice on their specific situation.
Why Might I Choose an In-Person Adviser?
In-person financial advisers will come with a higher cost and possibly a higher minimum asset balance. They may work closely with other professionals who could provide you with additional tax or estate planning expertise.
Some financial planners may work on a flat fee, while others will charge a percentage of the assets under management. Costs will vary on the complexity of what you are having them advise you on: Is it a small scope project, like looking at your current portfolio allocation, or is it a deep dive into your entire financial life, including Social Security claiming strategies, tax considerations, and legacy planning?
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I haven’t mentioned advisers who don’t charge you anything at all and instead work on commission, because they may have a conflict of interest when it comes to giving you the best advice for your situation.
I’ll get more into specifics on finding a financial planner in a future article, but for now I wanted to leave you with the idea that everyone can benefit from having an outside, objective eye on their financial situation. In fact, most financial professionals (myself included!) will at some point go to another financial professional for a reality check.
This article was originally published in February 2022.