No one is born knowing how to manage money, and unfortunately, our schools don’t do a great job of teaching personal finance. I wish I’d spent more time in school learning about calculating income taxes and how credit card interest works, rather than square dancing and practicing cursive handwriting.
Luckily, it’s never too late to learn how to get better with money. I started working with a Certified Financial Planner in early 2022, and having a money coach in my corner has helped me immensely. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and if I have a question, I have someone I can ask. I’m not alone in this — according to findings from the 2023 Northwestern Mutual Planning and Progress Study, Americans who work with financial advisors report feeling significantly more confident about retiring with enough money, handling unplanned expenses, and living well today without costing themselves in the future.
If you’ve never met with a financial planner or advisor before, it might be worth your time (and the fee). Here’s why.
What can a financial advisor do for you?
Before I learned better, I assumed that I didn’t make enough money to need a financial advisor. I also didn’t have money to invest at that time, so I wasn’t sure what we would even talk about. Well, as it turns out, financial advisors can help anyone, regardless of income. And even if you’re just getting started with investing or aren’t ready yet, there are plenty of other financial matters they can help you with.
Budgeting and debt payoff are two of the cornerstones of money management, and a financial advisor can be your guide here. Some advisors use planning software that makes it easier to get a comprehensive look at your income versus your expenses, so figuring out where you can cut spending and find money to put in your savings account is a lot more straightforward. Similarly, if you’re struggling with debt, meeting with an advisor might give you the information and impetus you need to make a plan to pay it off.
When I started meeting with my CFP last year, I had a fair amount of high-interest debt, and as I went through the process of snowballing my debt payoff, it was helpful to have someone in my corner, cheering me on.
Going back to investing, helping you find the right brokerage account or setting up investments for retirement is an area where many financial advisors shine. An advisor will consider your risk tolerance, timeline, and how much money you have available to invest when deciding how to set you up for success. If you need help with insurance, saving to buy a home, or starting a business, yep, a financial advisor can be your ally here too. In short, no matter your money concerns, there’s an advisor out there for you.
How do you find a financial advisor?
Now you know how a financial advisor can help you, but how do you find a good one? Start by asking friends and family if they work with an advisor, and whether they’d recommend the person they use. Financial advisors have their own professional networks, too, which means that if you meet with one and they’re just not a fit, they might be able to recommend a colleague.
The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors is another excellent way to find one. Search the website to find someone in your area. The Securities and Exchange Commission also maintains a database of people licensed to work with investments. It’s also a good idea to run a prospective advisor’s name through the FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) BrokerCheck database to ensure you’re working with someone who is licensed.
If you need help with money matters, you’re not alone, and consulting with a professional is one of the best ways to get a better handle on your finances. You might be amazed by just how much more confident you feel afterward.
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