A phrase I hear all the time from my 4-year-old niece is "I can do it -- all by myself." It's often quite true -- she can indeed put on her jacket and set the table. But she doesn't realize yet that she can't do everything she thinks she can. It's the same with her sister. I told her that one day she might take piano lessons. She explained that she already knows how to play the piano. I refrained from explaining that banging on the keys isn't really playing.
When it comes to financial matters, many of us are like 4-year-olds. We think we can do it all by ourselves. Or maybe we think we should be able to do so, and we get frustrated when confusion sets in. The truth is, not everyone can or should go it alone, and there's no shame in seeking expert help. Got that? No shame.
The latest issue of Consumer Reports magazine reviewed a host of financial-advice services. It found: "Bargain financial planning services can give you solid advice about how to invest for retirement." (It also noted that none of the plans are perfect and that it's still good to question assumptions in any model and to review all numbers, looking for errors. Also check out any advisor before signing up -- learn more from the Securities and Exchange Commission.)
Here are some more of its conclusions:
- An independent, fee-only planner is best if you need face-to-face interaction and have lots of questions to ask. Getting such a planner can cost around $3,000.
- Vanguard's "Personal Financial Report" is good if you "mainly want retirement advice and are willing to invest most of your money with Vanguard." Its cost varies -- it's a bit less if you're a Vanguard client, and the cost is lower if you have a lot of money invested.
- Less expensive plans ranged from being free to costing around $650. Consider the "Retirement Income Manager" from T. Rowe Price
(NASDAQ:TROW), which costs $500 and is free if you have $1 million or more invested. Like a bunch of other plans, it was deemed fairly conservative in what it recommended for retirees.
- Free planning services are offered by Fidelity Investments, Wachovia Bank
(NYSE:WB), and Charles Schwab (NASDAQ:SCHW). They received mixed marks as well for offering no specific mutual fund recommendations, among other things.
Permit me to offer two more possibilities for you: First, let us help you find a good pro. Our guidance can help you zero in on the right questions to ask as you interview candidates, for example. It's important to take the time to find a trustworthy advisor with whom you're comfortable.
Next, consider checking out our own affordable personal finance planning service, TMF Money Advisor. You can try it out for free for a whole month -- that's a pretty good bargain. During that time, you can run lots of numbers, explore various scenarios, and ask all your questions over the phone with financial pros.
Remember, it's OK to ask for help. If you're not confident of your financial savviness, why not tap the expertise of people who focus on this stuff for a living, instead of winging it on your own?