DO YOUR NEED A FINANCIAL PLANNER?
Michigan Credit Union League - Your Money Matters
Are you getting married soon? Maybe you don't plan on marriage or children but would like to assure that your can retire early? Or, are you already married, have children and looking at a future of college payments and a rapidly approaching retirement? Wherever you happen to be in the scheme of life, financial planning makes sense.
Most adults agree that planning for the future makes good sense, but many don't know how to get started. There is a flourishing array of how-to publications and high-powered computer software programs, and there are real people out there who specialize in financial planning for those lacking the time or confidence to do it themselves.
"The role of the financial planner is to meet all of the client's financial goals," explains Steve Gordon of Plan America, a financial planning program servicing members of Michigan credit unions. "In most cases, these goals become interrelated and require the planner to be knowledgeable in a vast array of areas. Typically, an individual's basic analysis of their present debt, asset and insurance situation is not extensive enough. With a planner the benefit to you is a more complete plan that meets all of your financial needs."
Whether you choose to do it yourself with books and computer assistance, or select to hire a planner, how do you find the right package? You may begin by talking to friends and family, whose opinions you value. You want to select a planner (whether it's a book or a person) that you are comfortable with. You have to trust the information source. If you are working with an individual, you must be confident that they will act in your best interest. A good planner will help you devise a scheme you can live with and then help you run it with regular reviews and adjustments.
The consumer magazine Everybody's Money suggests that while you are searching for the planner that will help you meet your financial goals, decide what those goals are. What housing changes do you anticipate? What about vacations, higher education for your kids or grandchildren, provisions for your loved ones should you become disabled or die? What about retirement--what sort of life do you expect to live and when do you plan on retiring?
Planners can help you set a lot of these goals. But approaching them with your affairs organized will benefit you both. Even if you elect to complete your planning at home Everybody's Money suggests that you have the following information available.
* Track your cash flow from income to expenses. List expenses in such categories as housing, utilities, transportation, food, entertainment, etc.
* Have the last two years' tax returns at your fingertips.
* Add up the valuables that you own: real estate, personal property, investments, financial accounts--checking and savings. Subtract any debts from these assets. The result is your net worth.
If you do hire someone, remember they work for you. You don't need to impress them. If you are not comfortable, for whatever reason, consider hiring someone else. Before you make your selection, meet with the planner. Don't be afraid to ask for a free initial consultation. If you are married, it's a good idea to have your spouse be involved with the selection process. It is wise to inquire about their accreditation. Some professional planners are register with the Federal Government's Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC keeps files on their credentials, including any past legal problems. Other professional associations provide credentials to individuals who prove themselves through testing that they demonstrate the minimum knowledge of basic financial principles.
If you elect to use at-home methods, most books will list the author's accreditations and qualifications. Software titles will also boast of why they are best on the market. Be cautious and read through the available information carefully. Don't get wrapped up in flamboyant advertising and marketing. You should be looking for sensible products that can demonstrate their effectiveness. Check on the store's return policy or ask if they have a "demo" available for you to experiment with.
Financial planning is sound advice no matter which road you're walking down in life. There are many avenues that you can take to reach your financial planning goals. Be confident with the method you select and be certain you agree with the reason and details throughout the process.