Financial Planning for Generation X & Y Women
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Expert Q&A Archive

When should I hire a financial advisor, and how do I find one?
When should I hire a financial advisor, and how do I find one?
Rebecca Schreiber CFP®:
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You should hire a financial advisor as soon as you start to feel overwhelmed by your situation or choices. Once you become overwhelmed and immobilized it is much harder to reach out for help.

The kind of advisor you should use depends on what type of help you need.

  • If you are just getting started and need someone to organize your information and get you started you should find a fee-only financial planner. Other commission-based advisors will have to sell you investments to make the project worth their while and, at the beginning of this process, it is too early to start buying investments.
  • If you have organized your financial information, have taken your first steps and are looking for a second opinion, look for a fee-only financial planner. This planner will be prepared to offer you advice and not necessarily replace the investments you may have chosen quite wisely.
  • If you have organized your information, feel confident about your current decisions and need to buy investments, then go to a discount broker such as Charles Schwab or Fidelity. Be sure they only sell you what you have come to purchase - not any other proprietary or more expensive products.
  • Your advice should always come from a source that is designed to be objective. Fee-only advisors, whether charging an hourly rate or an annual fee, have focused their sights on the pressing needs of the client.
Michael A. Masiello:
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Hire a financial planner before you need one. Often times it helps the planning process. The best way is to ask friends and relatives for referral to a trusted advisor. Interview a few of them and find one you are comfortable with. They should ask lots of questions, not just propose products.
Jody Rorick, CPA:
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You should interview at least three, who should be recommended to you by people whose opinions you trust. The advisors should be able to show you a track record in good times and in bad times. It's never too early to choose a financial advisor, but many have a minimum amount they will accept. If you don't have enough to satisfy minimum requirements, you can go to branches of Fidelity or of Merrill Lynch or another well-known investment advisory firm, and ask for help. You will get help, with no minimum.
Connie K. Marmet:
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[The module on “Money Basics” in the Wi$e Up curriculum has a section on “Consulting with Financial Professionals.” If you are young without a lot of money, that material may be enough.]

There are so many financial planners, with so many agendas, and we know so little about your circumstances. I think starting with a self-assessment would be good. To get a financial advisor, I would check with a financial institution I trust and with friends, then interview the financial advisor before I committed to working with him or her, asking the following:

  1. His/her approach in working with clients,
  2. How he/she is compensated,
  3. Any other commercial alliances he/she has,
  4. His/her credentials, and
  5. For references from his/her clients who have similar financial circumstances.

I would not work with anyone who gets a commission from the investment he/she recommends.

Gail Rosen, CPA:
expert info »
Ask a financial planner.
Gary Silverman, CFP®:
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Hire a financial advisor whenever you want financial advice. The problem is which one. Some only cater to rich clients (they pay the bills). Some charge $100's an hour. So if you are looking at advice on dealing with debt or budgeting, then an organization like the Consumer Credit Counseling Service is more applicable.

Actually finding a person is as easy as looking in the yellow pages under Financial Planner. Another place would be going to, the home page of the Financial Planning Association. They have an advisor search function called "Find a Planner" on the upper right side of the page. Another organization is the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) at Then there's the tried-and-true method of asking friends, your CPA, or your attorney for referrals.
Rosemary Ervin, CPA:
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You should use a financial advisor when you think a professional can handle your investments better than you can. First, you should pay off most debts (excluding mortgage). Consider using a financial planner
who will look at all of your finances, liquidity for emergencies, investments for retirement and education, risk analysis for insurance, both disability and life insurance, and investment vehicles in general.

Network to find the advisor. Chemistry is very important. It is the person you will call when you need financial advice. Try to find someone your age or younger. That way the advisor will be around when
you are "old". You can interview a few before settling on the one you want. And you can always change advisors like you change dentists or doctors. Try for general advice. Click on consumers.
Shirley M. Mueller:
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An adviser can help you invest. However, most often money managers are only able to outperform the market for a short period of time-sustaining that success is almost impossible. This is called reversion to the mean, common in all disciplines. Some managers acknowledge this and sell their services to clients by suggesting that they can save them money in other ways, such as by doing a financial plan, helping with estate planning, insurance issues, etc. Whether or not these extra services are worth the money management fee is something only you can decide. Older people with substantial assets receive more benefit from the comprehensive package than younger [persons] just starting out. On the other hand, the financial planning can be accomplished for a fixed fee and the suggestions can be acted upon individually at any age. This saves money, but it requires effort.

Pro: A professional portfolio and wealth management plan is obtained.
Suggestions on estate planning, insurance and other issues [such a plan] may be beneficial.

Con: The cost is high and the long-term gain on the portfolio is not
likely to be above market.
Sharon P. Hardy, CFE:
expert info »
Personally, I don't think that you always have to consider hiring one. There are a lot of various sources available, if one's willing to take the time to do the required research, in order to be reasonably knowledgeable. Via the Internet, there is wealth of valuable information that's readily accessible on a variety of financial matters (i.e. investment strategies; budgeting; managing your assets; etc.).

However, if one is really in need of "expert" knowledge and advice on certain matters related to their finances, I believe that this would be one of the primary catalysts that would bring about hiring a top-notch financial advisor.