And yet, nearly half the American middle class says they still value the person-to-person approach.
About 45 percent of consumers work with a financial advisor to help make investment choices, according to a recent report by Merrill Edge.
If you're willing to shell out the cash for professional advice, we're fans of the fee-based advisor approach. These professionals are under fiduciary duty to work in their client's best interest; they are paid by the hour; and they aren't paid commissions for giving certain advice to clients.
Wherever you seek advice, whether it be from a long-time family friend or an employer-provided expert, no financial planner will do you any good if you're not prepared to ask the right questions at the right time.
The National Association of Personal Finance Advisors is an organization consisting of hundreds of registered fee-only planners. We reached out to several members of the NAPFA for tips on questions every client should be ready to ask their advisor:
“Real financial planning is not simply looking at someone’s investment holdings and providing a new asset allocation," says NAPFA National Chair Lauren Locker, CFP®. "It is a much more detailed process that addresses every aspect of an individual’s financial wellbeing, including budgeting and saving, insurance, college funding, estate planning, tax strategies and more."
According to financial planners themselves, here's what clients should be asking:
- When can I afford to retire?
- What financial changes can I expect after I get married?
- How much can I help my kids with school finances without derailing my own retirement?
- What's my net worth?
- Can I afford to have another child?
- How much house can I afford?
- How will I be able to pay bills six months from now, six years from now and sixteen years from now?
- Which investment vehicle is right for me?
- What types of insurance and documents do I need in place to protect my family?
- Where is my money going now and where should it be going?
- What exactly is a diversified portfolio and how can I build one?
- How did my investments do this past year? ?
- Will you make "buy or sell" recommendations for my portfolio?
- What tax savings strategies are available to me?
- Am I taking advantage of all the benefit plans my employer offers?
- How will inflation impact my retirement goals?
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