The right financial advisor can not only help you manage your near-term money-related goals but can also help you establish a solid savings plan for the future. Yet a large chunk of Americans are surprisingly hesitant to enlist outside help. In fact, 45% of U.S. adults aged 40 to 59 say they'd rather visit the dentist than make an appointment with a financial advisor, according to an AARP survey.
Part of that sentiment might stem from the fact that many Americans are embarrassed by the financial choices they've made and don't want to share their missteps with an outside person. But part of it might also boil down to a general mistrust of the financial services industry -- something 65% of Americans uphold rigorously.
The problem, however, is that the longer folks go without seeking the help of an advisor, the less likely they are to meet their various savings goals. While having an advisor won't guarantee success, 67% of adults who have one say they're clearer on how much to save versus spend, according to a recent batch of data from Northwestern Mutual. And in that same study, those with an advisor were more than twice as likely to report feeling financially secure as those without.
If you'd rather get a tooth pulled than sit down with a financial advisor, it could be that you just haven't found the right person for the job. But once you do, having that professional in your corner might really change your financial outlook and future.
Finding an advisor you can trust
Financial advisors tend to get a bad rap for a number of reasons, but if you take the time to vet yours properly, you may be pleasantly surprised with the service you receive. First and foremost, source recommendations from friends, colleagues, neighbors, and family members before simply googling your way to the person who might come to manage your money. Chances are, if someone you know has had a good experience with an advisor, you're likely to follow suit.
Next, aim to find an advisor who holds to the fiduciary standard. This standard states that an advisor must always make recommendations that are in a client's best interests. Other advisors, by contrast, might hold themselves to the suitability standard, which is acceptable but not quite as airtight. The suitability standard dictates that an advisor can only recommend investments that are suitable for his or her clients. It does not, however, require that advisor to put clients' best interests ahead of his or her own.
Another thing you'll want to look for in a financial advisor is transparency with regard to fees. Advisors can make money in several ways, the most common of which are charging a fee that's calculated as a percentage of your assets under management, or taking commissions on the investments you buy. Generally speaking, the former arrangement is more ideal from a client perspective, but the latter isn't necessarily a deal-breaker. The key, however, is to find an advisor who's open and honest about how he or she makes money.
Furthermore, your advisor should aim to educate you on smart investment choices rather than simply make them for you. And your advisor should also take your personal risk tolerance into account when recommending investments for your portfolio.
Finally, you'll want an advisor who will take the time to understand your challenges and goals. Any advisor who attempts to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to your account isn't worth your money.
You need the confidence an advisor can bring
Hiring a financial advisor doesn't mean admitting defeat on the savings front. Quite the contrary -- it means you're making a smart investment in your future while also making near-term goals more attainable. And the sooner you start working with one, the more confident you're apt to feel about major milestones like retirement.
And make no mistake about it -- that confidence can go a long way in shaping other areas of your life. According to AARP, adults who feel confident in their retirement savings experience lower levels of stress and better physical health. And there's a lot to be said for that.
Of course, it's possible to feel secure in your financial outlook without hiring an advisor. But if you're struggling in that arena, don't let your preconceived notions about advisors prevent you from getting the help you need. As long as you take the time to vet your advisor and find the right one for you, you're likely to come away happy with your decision.