It’s highly likely either you or someone you know has found themselves requesting financial guidance, but instead of receiving real help, was met with a sales pitch for some annuity that doesn’t really solve anything. Oh, that was just me?
Well, with that being the common rhetoric, it’s no surprise that financial professionals are struggling to gain a positive image. Today, I’d like to introduce you to Rob Schultz, author of “Thoughts on Things Financial,” and fee-only Certified Financial Planner.
He and other non-commission-based CFPs, as members of NAPFA, have completed continuing education, demonstrated no alliances with financial investment products or companies, and are fee-only fiduciaries who genuinely want to help people plan well with their money.
So how do you find a trustworthy financial planner, how can they help you, and how might your kids benefit from the advice of one? In this article, we’re going to tackle all of that and more!
Why And When Do You Need A Financial Planner?
Similar to how you might hire a business coach, a nutritionist, or a personal trainer to help you systematically work toward and achieve goals in other areas of your life, a financial planner will coach and guide you toward your desired financial achievements.
Just like a nutritionist can evaluate what you need to eat more and less of based on your physical condition, symptoms, and goals, a financial planner can make recommendations, provide accountability, and share advice based on their experience and knowledge in the financial realm.
If making financial decisions feels overwhelming, you have a track record of falling off track, you feel plagued by poor financial decisions, or you feel unable to create personal financial goals (much less able to make the choices required for you or your family to achieve them), you’d benefit from talking with a financial planner. Bubble burster: That’s you AND nearly everyone you know!
Financial planners can help you set goals for your personal financial situation that stretch your abilities but are also achievable, they can help craft a strategic plan with tangible, intermittent milestones along the way, and they can advise on investment options in alignment with your goals. We all need nudges in the right direction from time to time.
Whether you’re into stocks or not, believe in the power of robo-advisors or not, and whether you’re all-in with real estate investments or not, it’s nice to have a team member on your side of the court who’s got the education, certifications, experience, and technology to assist when you need it.
How To Find A Great Financial Planner
Gurus and “experts” seem to be lurking in every corner of the internet these days, so don’t trust any ol’ Google search to provide the best results. You want a trustworthy, non-biased, financial planner who can give you advice not based on the commissions he or she’d earn from selling you that life insurance product or annuity, but based on what’s really the best option for your exact situation.
The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) is an exclusive organization of which only 1% of financial planners in the country qualify and are members. Membership is only awarded to planners who do not have a securities license (they can’t sell investment products), have completed and agree to continue ongoing education, are not selling anything for commissions, and expressly demonstrate no conflicts of interest with providing unbiased financial advice.
Schultz recommends you start finding a NAPFA member who seems to align with your interests and values and to interview a couple of them before you decide. Fee-only advisors and planners charge a fixed rate per session or per hour of advice, much like an attorney. So, you’ll never be misled by the commissions they’re earning “on the backend” all while you thought they were presenting a customized solution.
Any great financial planner will talk with you about your income, goals, investments, debts, and savings rates – the whole package, and yes, you should expect a customized plan for your unique situation.
Practical Ways To Work With A Financial Planner
You’ve heard the term “treading water” or “drowning” associated with the way people feel they are doing with their money/debt/obligations/financial organization, right? Well, let me present this water-based visual too:
Consider a competitive swimmer – while the swimmer is engaged in a race, their head is down and only raises enough to snag a breath when needed. They aren’t looking side to side in observance of what their neighbor, the officials, or the crowd is doing. The swimmer is only focused on swimming their best, and to do so, their head is down, making their body as aerodynamic as possible so they may glide through the water quickly and easily.
Now adjust your imaginary perspective to view the coaches’ bench. They are alert, looking forward, scanning every inch of the lane, their eyes focusing intently on the details of timing, strokes, kicks, and down to the very details of how a swimmer holds his or her fingers. If a coach puts their head down, they’ll miss something, which would hinder their ability and opportunity to coach their swimmer toward success. These two very different perspectives of the same event make it blatantly evident that you simply cannot swim and monitor at the same time.
This principle stands in personal finance as well. You are the swimmer and the financial planner is the monitor. At the beginning of your engagement, you’ll talk about goals, your current financial position, and you’ll receive advice on the percentage to increase your savings, that you need to move money earning nothing to an interest-bearing account instead.
You meet with them every six months to evaluate your progress, set new goals, or course-correct if needed. In between those bi-annual meetings, you put your head down and swim toward your goals. You do your best to save appropriately, reduce expenses, and spend within the budget discussed. In six more months, you’ll have the opportunity to step back and see your progress.
Financial Planning With Kids In Mind
We all dream of our children growing up to become wealthier, happier, smarter, and just better than us in general. So one of the best things we can do for our children is to provide them with financial education and experiences with money to solidify it.
As you gain advice from your financial planner and gain experience in budgeting, setting and achieving financial goals, and more openly discussing money, bring your teens and tweens into the fold. They grow up only seeing what you have, how you live, and what you do with your money, and have no clue how much money it takes to fund their lifestyle.
One fun exercise with your children is to have them make a budget reflecting what they think they will need for any given period. You’ll get a jolly kick out of how little they think gas, food, entertainment, clothing, and other personal-use expense items cost for the month… Help them discover first-hand how much money they’ll really need and how much work it really takes to earn that amount.
While it might be tough, you’re encouraged to let your tweens and teens to make “big” mistakes while they’re still under your roof and (hopefully) open to your guidance, because It’s better to make hundred-ish-dollar mistakes as a teenager than a mistake worth thousands of dollars out on your own.
One area you might deem non-negotiable is in helping your teen set up their retirement account upon award of their first paycheck. Just imagine the different numbers you might be looking at if someone did that for you when you were just sixteen years old! Setting up automatic deposits of 10% of their income now will benefit them when you’re no longer around to guide them. What a great gift to give!
What Financial Planning Can Do For You
Which way would you like to feel as you look back over your life at the age of 70?
- You’ve achieved everything you wanted with your money and have intentional pods of savings to cover anything that could come your way.
- You have no idea what you did with your money… did it evaporate?
Financial planning and your ability to successfully execute that financial plan is the difference between these two places.
Hiring a financial planner works exactly the same way hiring any coach does – it makes you more conscious of your choices and helps you make decisions in alignment with what you say your goals are. In other words, partnering with a financial planner makes you put your money where your mouth is!
Having more money doesn’t change who you are. It makes your true colors shine more brightly and amplifies your ability to make an impact. You have the chance to make your money paint the prettiest picture, impact your family and others as positively as possible, and provide the most opportunity available, but it’s up to you as to how you’ll make that happen and who you’ll select to help you get there.