Financial planning is not just for the rich. It’s for anyone who wants peace of mind knowing they are prepared for the changes that the future inevitably brings.
While some planners charge a minimum annual retainer, there are planners who offer a limited engagement rate or even an hourly rate. And, with today’s web technology, you and the planner don’t have to live in the same area. Two places to find such services online are www.myfinancialadvice.com and www.garrettplanningnetwork.com.
Always look for a fee-only financial planning advisor who adheres to a Fiduciary Standard, which means they act in the client’s best interests. These advisors are not Stock Brokers or Registered Representatives who benefit from selling you an investment or financial product. Fee-Only Financial Advisors sell only one thing—their knowledge. You can learn more about fee-only financial planning at www.napfa.org.
A second option is to teach yourself the basics of money management and investing through books, classes, and websites. The problem here is choosing wisely, because there is so much material available. The following guidelines may be helpful:
• Beware of any source that promises you overnight wealth or makes claims that sound too good to be true.
• Be cautious about sources promoting only one idea, such as buying real estate. Even if the author’s advice is sound for that one type of investment, it isn’t wise to plan your financial future around only one investment strategy. Look instead for sources like my own co-authored book Conscious Finance which teach you the fundamentals of investing and money management.
• Be aware that authors or seminar instructors will usually have a secondary purpose of publicizing their products or services (as, you may have noticed, I just did in the previous point). There’s nothing wrong with this; just consider their possible biases as you evaluate their information.
• The websites of online brokerage firms include a lot of basic investment information, and you can also find many articles from financial journalists online or in business magazines.
As you learn about investing, focus on some basics:
• Buy mutual funds, not individual stocks.
• Learn what “diversification” means, and practice it.
• Max out IRAs, as well as your 401(k) if your employer offers one.
• If you invest with a broker who earns commissions, comparison shop and insist on full disclosure of fees and costs.
• Be the tortoise, not the hare: invest for the long term instead of trying to build wealth overnight.
• Have a spending plan, and follow it.
• Don’t overlook estate planning. At the absolute minimum, make a will and provide for your family’s future with term life insurance.
Making sound financial decisions on your own is possible. What it takes is your willingness to invest time and energy in your own financial future.
Rick Kahler, MS, CFP®, ChFC, CCIM, is president of Kahler Financial Group, the first Fee-Only financial planning firm in South Dakota and recognized by Bloomberg’s Wealth Manager as the largest financial planning company in a seven state region. Kahler is a past chairman of the South Dakota Investment Council, managing $6 billion. He has co-authored four books on personal financial planning, including the recently published book Wired for Wealth: Change the Money Mindsets That Keep You Trapped and Unleash Your Wealth Potential (HCI Books).