Most Americans believe in managing their own money. While that is ok for some, for others, they may find themselves lost and unprepared for retirement. What often bridges the gap between financial freedom in retirement and those unprepared for life’s financial challenges is an Advisor. Now, let me explain the reasons behind selecting a good financial advisor to help you plan for life’s stages including retirement. As someone that has traversed this industry for over 20 years, I often get asked, what really is a financial advisor? Do I need one to retire? And perhaps the most important question I hear is how do I choose the right one for me?
The financial services industry is one that is vast and to those not immersed in it, it is clear as mud. The best place to start is to understand what a financial advisor is and is not. Now, this is a topic of much discussion in my world and one on which I could probably bore you for hours, so I will try to keep it brief. A great deal of professionals within the industry use the term financial advisor as their title. It is often misleading, but a financial advisor should not be a broker. They should not be contacting you with a stock tip. They should also not be insurance agents. I am a huge proponent of insurance and recommend that everyone should have it; with that said, insurance agents are best at fitting you with the correct insurance product for your needs, and that does not make them comprehensive financial advisors. Advisors should be product and investment agnostic; their focus should be finding the right solution for you. If someone claims to have the best solution for a volatile market, promises returns, or tries to guarantee you against loss, these are red flags. Additionally, many professionals may possess the education or background as attorneys or accountants. These are separate and important skill sets that shouldn’t be confused with financial advising.
So then, what is a Financial Advisor? We are your advocate, financial translator, guide, partner, conscience and sounding board for your financial world. There is no pixy dust to financial freedom or retirement. The most common answers lie in hard work, savings and discipline. Having all three of those traits with regards to money is rare, so having an unbiased professional at your side is often the last piece of the pie to success. Great advisors know how to listen, diagnose what your objectives and values are, understand your concerns, never judge your choices, and most importantly be the one which you can trust to help achieve your retirement goals.
Many of us are also Fiduciaries, meaning we put your best interests in front of ourselves and our employer. We are there to walk you through the pros and cons of your decisions: To translate and educate you on what lies ahead of every financial choice made. To help you not panic when the market is volatile. To help you determine how much you will need to cover your children’s college or your parents long term care needs. To be there when you read an absurd article on the internet and think you should sell everything and move to Bermuda. To help you hit the pause button after a round of golf with a buddy that knows of this unicorn company stock that cannot possibly miss. To guide you through the maze of social security, Medicare, company stock options, buy outs, retirement plans, insurances, deferred compensation, and everything out of the ordinary that makes up retirement these days. Lastly, we are students of finance and economics. Good advisors never stop learning. The world is far from static and your advisor should not be either. The best advisors are those that continually educate themselves, not just with industry designations but by constantly searching for new answers to your financial questions.
So how do I find one? An easy place to start is to ask friends and family from who they receive financial advice. Another place to look is the CFP® website. Certified Financial Planners™ (CFPs) are individuals that have gone through board certified testing and are held to high ethical standards. Beyond skill set, or company backing, the best advisors are those that know how to listen to what their clients need and adapt. Some people are looking for and need an advisor to provide them with as much guidance and assistance as can be given. Others just need someone to help them bridge the gap between spouses or generations. There are many of us out there that are in this business because we just want to help. Find someone with that mindset and you’ve found an advisor for life.
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