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Advice For Sale

"Control your own destiny or someone else will."

Those words come from Jack Welch, former uber-CEO of General Electric and general pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of businessman.

Using this quote to kick-off an area about seeking outside money advice may sounds like we're gearing up to poo-poo the use of outside professionals.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

True, we've always maintained that you are the very best person to manage your money. You are the CEO of your personal financial empire. Like any successful executive, though, you seek out the best help you can get, subject to your time and money constraints.

Of course, it's important to know your team members and their allegiances and to weigh all advice accordingly. When it comes to your money, then, get all the help you need from whatever source works best for you. But remember that, ultimately, you make all the decisions. When you pay for advice, it's the information you're buying. So make sure you're getting good information - and also getting your money's worth.

So what kind of outside advice can you get? How do you decide what you need and how much is reasonable to pay for it? Let us help:

  • When To Get Advice: Are you looking to get more involved in your finances or do you need reinforcements? Do a little financial soul searching and prepare for life events that introduce important money decisions.
  • Whom To Hire: Stock pickers, generalists, astrological financial planners - there are all sorts. Here are the services they offer, and the credentials they should carry.
  • How Advisors Get Paid: Making sense of the sometimes-complex mix-and-match compensation system and how it can taint the advice you get.
  • Five Red Flags: Scenarios where it might make sense to "downsize" your pro.
  • Comparison Shop: A side-by-side, service-by-service look at the ways advice is delivered.

In addition to our narrative look at the world of financial advice, we provide some hand's-on tools to help you find the right fit. Print out a copy of our advisor questionnaire and make sure any professional you're considering hiring answers the questions to your satisfaction. (Don't worry, we provide a cheat-sheet of answers, too.) To help you make the most of your time -- and money -- consult this checklist of must-have materials.

Here at The Motley Fool we recognize that there is a common need for expert, affordable, independent advice on an as-needed basis. But The Motley Fool is also all about providing the unvarnished truth that you need to make financial decisions for yourself. In this spirit, we provide this section on obtaining paid financial advice - with us, or elsewhere. We encourage you to become an educated consumer -- take in the information -- and make the call for yourself. If you have any questions along the way, post them on our Finding a Financial Advisor discussion board.

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