A financial planner can be a powerful force for good, helping you set and reach financial goals. But do you really need a financial planner? Many people forgo the option of working with a financial planner in favor of doing research on their own, setting their own goals and managing their own finances. That means whether or not you should work with a financial planner is something that only you can decide. However, it’s important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of this decision before you make a final choice.
Interested in getting comprehensive financial help? Use SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching tool today.
What Is a Financial Planner?
Simply put, a financial planner is exactly what it sounds like. You can work with a financial planner to set financial goals, work towards specific milestones, save for retirement, plan out your investments and much more. However, not every financial planner is created equal, and some may also double as financial advisors.
Here’s a breakdown of some common services offered by financial planners:
- Tax planning
- Retirement savings and income planning
- Estate and trust planning
- Business succession planning
- College savings planning
- Insurance and annuity planning
- Short- and long-term financial goal planning
Some financial planners may be more qualified than others, providing a wide range of services as mentioned above. They may also have financial certifications, such as chartered financial consultant (ChFC) or certified financial planner (CFP), that indicate specific areas of expertise. Others may operate on a more casual basis, providing financial advice and planning services for particular life events or milestones, such as figuring out how to invest an inheritance.
The Pros and Cons of a Financial Planner
There are plenty of benefits to working with a financial planner. At the top of the list is the simple fact that a financial planner can help you get into a better position with your finances. This is something everyone should strive for, and the help of a professional can make it even easier to achieve.
Whether you’re looking for help with your entire financial situation or just want advice regarding one area of it, a financial planner is often a great additional set of eyes. Even if you have a solid grasp on your retirement savings plan or the asset allocation in your investment portfolio, a financial planner may be able to see areas for improvement that you don’t, putting you at even more of an advantage. Additionally, if you’re starting with limited financial knowledge, a financial planner can help you with issues you may not even realize you have.
However, working with a financial planner or any similar professional is going to cost you. The more comprehensive the engagement is, the more you’re likely to pay. CFPs, due to their education background, experience and expertise, may cost even more than the standard planner. You also aren’t guaranteed to agree with what your financial planner says all the time, and there’s always the chance that they’ll have suggestions that don’t mesh with yours.
Financial planning fees often come in two variants: fixed and hourly. These are fairly self-explanatory, with the former being a set fee and the latter being an hourly rate that changes based on the number of hours the planner spends on each client.
Do I Need a Financial Planner?
Again, it’s important to remember that only you can decide whether working with a financial planner makes sense given your financial situation. However, it’s definitely a good idea to consider a financial planner if you’re interested in getting help managing your finances beyond what you’re able to glean from internet research.
For example, if you’re trying to save for retirement but you’re having trouble hitting your savings goals, you might want to enlist some outside help in the form of a financial planner. They may be able to help you figure out how to adjust your habits to better reach your goals.
Another common instance in which someone would use a financial planner is if their finances become increasingly complex, to the point which they can no longer keep track of everything. In this situation, working with a financial planner can be extremely helpful in keeping your finances in order so that goals and financial obligations don’t slip through the cracks.
How to Find a Financial Planner
There are several different ways of finding a financial planner or financial advisor that may work for you. A simple way of doing this is by using SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching tool. This will pair you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, with the final choice of who to work with being up to you.
There are also online databases that can help you find a financial planner. The best way of finding some of these databases if through a simple Google search. You can also use resources like the FPA PlannerSearch and the Garrett Planning Network online databases that keep records of financial planners around the U.S.
Another tried and true method of finding a financial planner is by asking friends and family. Ask them if they use financial planners, and if they do, ask them about their qualities. Before you decide to work with an advisor referred from a friend or family member, make sure that they’re right for you and your financial situation.
Whether you need a financial planner is a decision that only you can make. That said, it’s a good idea to take a step back and think about the pros and cons of working with one, as well as if the costs of paying a planner make sense for your situation.
A financial planner may be able to help you set and achieve financial goals, allocate your assets, invest for the future and save for retirement. While financial planners and advisors do take fees, there are options for all financial situations.
Tips for Financial Planning
- Financial planning isn’t easy, and it can be extremely helpful to have someone in your corner to help you out. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- If you decide to do financial planning on your own without the help of a professional, there are a number of programs you can use. Check out SmartAsset’s list of the top financial planning software to learn more.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Ridofranz, ©iStock.com/FG Trade, ©iStock.com/FG Trade