Find the Right Financial Advisor for You

inding the right financial advisor is critical to avoiding costly mistakes. But if there is anything that Black folks seem more resistant to than talking about money, it is paying for professional financial services. Many people don't want to pay for something they feel they can do for themselves.

"Someone in the early stages of planning and without excess money to spare should look for a reputable company that provides unbiased financial education and will help you make the best decision," says Samirian Hill, president and founder of BudgetWise Financial Solutions, LLC of Southfield.

Whatever areas of financial planning you need help with-budgeting, debt management, retirement planning, investing, estate planning, tax planning or others-there are individuals trained to help you achieve the best outcomes.

These professionals spend every day focused on the details of their specialty, staying abreast of changing regulations and laws. Of course, you should become as knowledgeable as possible about managing your money through resources like personal finance books and workshops. Still, the wisdom of experts will likely result in more savings, reduced debt and a better long-term strategy than a novice could come up with alone.

If you need budget or debt management expertise, visit the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) or call 800-388-2227. The largest nonprofit credit counseling organization in the country, it provides online tools like budget worksheets, as well as referrals to local agencies. Such organizations can do a free evaluation of your situation and offer counseling regarding debt, bankruptcy and housing. In some cases, they may be able to help get clients' credit card interest rates and monthly payments lowered.


There is the option of working with a financial coach. This professional typically specializes in budgeting, cash flow and debt management. Many charge between $50 and $150 per hour. They can provide the month-to-month hand holding that is sometimes necessary to help clients learn to live within their means.

You should meet with a financial professional who specializes in your area of need. For example, a retirement specialist may not be well versed in taxes or estate planning. He or she can, however, help determine the best retirement product for you, what yearly contribution you should make, and how much risk is appropriate for you based on your age, lifestyle and the number of years before you retire. At some financial planning firms, the staff includes professionals with different areas of expertise, enabling clients to get all the guidance they need in one place.

To find the right planner, first ask for referrals from friends and family. Get recommendations from those who have used a planner's services and can vouch for his or her character, competence and performance. You also can search for financial planners through registries like the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors or Garrett Planning Network. They maintain a list of advisers that have gotten training and agreed to the organization's ethical standards.

Once you have selected about three potential advisors, begin the process of interviewing. Make sure they don't make you feel intimidated when asking questions. Determine your comfort level with them. Ask for client referrals.

Jackie Davis, owner of a State Farm Insurance Agency in Belleville, suggests finding out how they earn money. "When choosing a financial advisor, it helps to understand how your advisor gets paid because those who live off commissions may have different goals than advisors who work on salary." In other words, an advisor's recommendation of one product over another could be influenced by the commission he or she could make.

Fee-only advisors charge a flat rate per service. They do not receive a commission on the products they sell and do not manage your portfolio on an on-going basis. Others advisors are commission-based and may or may not charge for office visits. Also, there are hybrid-fee-based advisors who receive payment from some of the products they sell, but most of their income comes from client fees.

Whoever you choose, be sure to monitor your accounts. In addition to meeting annually at tax time, review your quarterly and monthly statements. Remember, the financial advisor works for you, not the other way around.


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