Whether you’re 27 and starting a career or 57 and planning to retire, you may be wondering, “Should I hire a financial planner?” Will paying a consultant’s fee lead to significantly better financial decisions and fewer costly mistakes?
If you are a diligent saver and skilled investor, you may think there is little reason to purchase the services of an advisor. If you don’t know something, such as whether converting to a Roth IRA makes sense or not, you can research the answer yourself at your leisure.
Before you decide you’re ready to go it alone, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Do I need help with financial planning – or am I looking for stock tips?
Let’s say you’re considering whether to buy a new home, not sure how much to spend on it, or what kind of mortgage to get. Or you’re saddled with student loans, trying to save for your kids’ college tuition, and looking for tax-saving strategies.
Consultants are ideally suited to allay those concerns. It’s all part of what they call “holistic financial planning.”
“You don’t need a financial planner to tell you what the next Tesla will be or whether Apple stock will rise in the next five years,” said Harold Pollack, co-author of “The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Work.” Must be complicated.” “You’ll be disappointed if you expect that.”
2. Am I ready to take this person’s advice or do I just want to hear what I want to hear?
Some investors hire an advisor to get a stamp of approval for what they are already doing. They want to be able to say, “Look, this sharp advisor didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.”
But if you’re really eager to learn and open to fresh ideas, you’re more likely to have a beneficial working relationship with a consultant.
“Be prepared to hear from a financial planner what might not be fueling your ego at the time,” says Pollack, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work. “What the planner says may be unpalatable right now. And that can be great”, because it offers insights that you might not have otherwise.
3. Do I have the discipline to stay on track?
For many consultants, a large part of their job is keeping clients on hand during crises. For example, it can be invaluable in urging investors to “stick to the plan” and avoid panic selling during a stock market downturn.
“Money is very emotional,” said Rishi Bharathan, chief executive of Fairfax, Virginia-based WiserAdvisor, an online company that connects consumers with advisors. “Most people don’t recognize that,” so unless they are highly disciplined and able to control their emotions, they may want to pay a financial planner to give a voice of reason.
4. Do I have a good understanding of risks?
Shortly after hiring an advisor, you can complete a questionnaire to assess your risk tolerance. If you’re already well aware of your attitude to risk—and your ability to weather large swings in your wealth without flinching—then an advisor can’t add much in the way of portfolio construction.
On the other hand, some investors don’t know their comfort level with risk until it’s too late. An advisor can position your portfolio to keep your sanity if you would otherwise feel distraught suffering steep short-term losses. “Most people think they understand risk, and that can be dangerous,” Bharathan said.
5. To what extent would access to advisor knowledge and technology (to assess and manage investments) improve my financial life compared to doing it myself?
You can do without an advisor if you have sufficient knowledge of financial markets, investments and other aspects of money management, from budgeting to estate planning to retirement planning. But the real problem is how your knowledge compares to an advisor’s knowledge.
“Financial advisors have access to solutions and technology that the general public doesn’t,” said Angie Herbers, chief executive of Herbers & Co., an independent management consulting firm for advisors in Austin, Texas.
6. Who do I know and trust – experts and friends – who are willing to help me gain a deeper understanding of my financial life?
Even DIYers benefit from a support network. “The really rich person will tell you that wealth is who you surround yourself with,” Herbers said. “If you choose to do it yourself, just say, ‘I’m smarter than an expert,’ and that better-than mentality isn’t how the rich build and maintain their money.”
More: How can you prevent inflation from taking a big bite out of your investments?
Also read: Peter Thiel turned his Roth IRA into a pot of gold. You can too – but you have to ‘walk carefully’