Financial advisors can help you better manage your money, grow your investments more quickly, and put you on track to achieve your long-term financial goals. But they're an underutilized resource: Only 38% of Americans currently work with a financial advisor, according to a recent Transamerica Institute survey.
You may think you don't need one because you simply don't have that much money to manage. You may also be concerned that you can't afford one. But there are circumstances when forgoing that professional assistance could cost you far more than paying for it. Here are three signs you should consider seeking help from a financial advisor.
1. You've just experienced a life-changing event.
Marriages, divorces, births, deaths, job changes, and job losses often have huge impacts on your finances. You may have less money coming in than you're used to -- or you may have significantly more. You may have racked up heavier debt than you usually carry. And those life changes may have brought with them new financial goals, like saving for a child's college education. If you've never dealt with the monetary issues surrounding these situations before, you might not know where to begin.
That's where a financial advisor comes in. They handle these matters for a living, and they will be familiar with the best strategies to help you reach your goals. They may be able to come up with a plan to grow your money faster that you never would have thought of on your own.
2. Your investments are losing money.
Saving for retirement or a child's higher education would be virtually impossible if the only tool you were using was a savings account. That's why you invest -- so that ideally, your portfolio will gain value significantly over time, sparing you the difficulty of saving the entire sum you need. But sometimes things don't go according to plan, and your investments lose money. And if that happens too widely within your portfolio, it could put your long-term financial security at risk -- especially if it's your retirement nest egg that is shrinking.
It takes time to learn how to invest wisely, but financial advisors have spent that time. They can assess your risk tolerance and help you choose the right investments for you. Not only can this help you increase your net worth, but it can also save you a lot of stress, possibly preventing you from making some emotional investing mistakes.
3. You don't have the time to manage your money on your own -- or you just aren't interested.
Not everyone has the desire to learn all the ins and outs of finance and investing, and some who might like to lack the time to do so. But that doesn't mean they should give up altogether on having a financial plan, or leave all their money in savings accounts where inflation can slowly erode its value.
If becoming an expert yourself is not on your agenda, turn your money over to someone who has the time and the expertise to manage it the right way. Yes, it will cost you a bit up front, but it could also help you grow your net worth more effectively, and it can give you peace of mind knowing that you're on track to hit your financial goals.
How to choose a financial advisor
When choosing a financial advisor, make sure you're working with a reputable company or individual. Research financial advisors in your area, and check out their reputation and credentials. You can also search for advisors certified by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. Try asking your friends and family for recommendations as well.
It can't hurt to meet with a few different financial advisors at first to see who you like best. Talk to them about how they intend to invest your money, and what qualifications they have. Ask whether or not they're a fiduciary -- someone required by law to act in the best interests of their clients, and to put those interests ahead of their own. Don't settle for complex answers you don't fully understand. A good financial advisor should be able to explain everything to you in layman's terms. Make sure the one you choose will be available for you to speak with any time you run into questions. Set up a plan for how often they'll regularly check in with you, so you know what to expect.
Ask for a copy of the advisor's fee schedule as well. Your best bet will be to work with a fee-only financial advisor, not a fee-based financial advisor. Those descriptors may sound similar, but the difference is major. A fee-only advisor gets paid solely by their clients. They may charge you an annual amount that's a percentage of the assets they manage for you, or a flat fee, or you might simply pay them by the hour -- or some combination of those methods. Fee-based advisors, by contrast, can also earn commissions for selling you certain investment products -- so it's in their interest to convince you to buy products that will pay them a better commission. And they are not fiduciaries, so the standards for their behavior are less restrictive: The financial products that they sell you only have to be "suitable" for you.
So, pick a fee-only advisor, and then you won't have to worry about conflicts of interest.
It can take time and effort to find the right financial advisor for you, but it will probably pay off in the long run, both by improving your financial health, and by reducing the stress and uncertainty that comes with trying to manage your investments all on your own.