It’s high time we’re officially dubbed the “hire-it-out” generation. Whatever we can’t seem to get done ourselves — whether it’s organizing closets or washing windows — we hire-it-done without even thinking twice. Except, of course, in the matter of our finances.
We seem to place finances in the same category as having children — it’s one of those things we feel we should be able do ourselves. But, aren’t finances better placed in the same category as lawn maintenance? Without professional help, it’s like we can get either the hedges trimmed or the lawn mowed or the leaves blown
— but we can’t seem to pull it all together at once. Like a lawn crew, a financial planner can size up the job and zip through it in a fraction of the time it would have taken us. And he or she will likely do a better job.
But, whom can we trust? Finding the right planner is important, and certainly not all financial advisors are the same. Well, here’s good news. The financial industry has recognized our “trust issues” and has worked to address them. The trend now is toward transparency — no more veil of secrecy around what’s being done with our money, why it’s being done, and what we’re being charged.
So, the industry is moving away from commission-only advisors and toward fee-based arrangements. The point is to eliminate potential conflicts of interest. If advisors are paid only when they make a sale, their own financial interests may be at odds with ours. While fee-based advisors may charge a percentage of our “funds under management,” their own financial interest is aligned with ours. As our portfolio grows, so does their fee.
Certified Financial Planner status — and the fiduciary duty that comes along with it — is also on the rise. CFP status is bestowed by the Certified Financial Board of Standards only after rigorous requirements have been met. And, the Board holds its CFPs to high standards of ethical conduct, including a fiduciary duty. So, unlike non-certified planners, CFPs are duty-bound to put their client’s interests above their own.
A CFP is able to broadly evaluate our overall financial picture to address not only our investments, but also our insurance, tax, and even estate planning issues. Once our goals have been identified and information gathered, a specific financial plan can be recommended. Once our plan is in place, our CFP can help insure that we stick to it.
How do I find my own CFP? Ask around. Financial firms typically have CFPs. Check the CFP Board website, www.cfp.net, or the Financial Planning Association webpage, www.fpanet.org/plannersearch. And, don’t be shy. If you’re not sure you have enough funds to be placed “under management” — ask! If you’re just starting out, but serious, you may be perfect for a CFP who is just starting out. And, with the help of your CFP, you’ll eventually have plenty of funds under management.
Working with a CFP puts us smack-dab into a financial planning process that gives us more control over our financial destiny. It can help us seize our seemingly unattainable financial goals and put them back into our real world financial lives. We’ll finally be able to foster some financial order and discipline … and peace of mind. And if you’re worried about the cost of hiring this one out, mow your own lawn!
What’s up next? Kids and Allowance.
Berry is not a Certified Financial Planner. She is a cum laude graduate of Texas Tech Law School and the self-taught manager of her own family’s finances. Before making financial decisions, consider pertinent information carefully and consider consulting a financial professional.