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Who needs a financial advisor in a bull market? Maybe you do

Michael Santoli
Michael Santoli

It happens in every bull market. As the stock market stretches skyward, the do-it-yourself industry gets aggressive, creating new products to make investing seem quick, easy and cheap.

In the ‘90s it was low-commission online brokers that spread the get-rich-at-home dream. And in the early 2000s bull run, the exchange-traded fund complex exploded, packaging all sections of the market into cheap little baskets.

Lately, a fast-growing class of so-called robo-advisors such as Betterment.com, Wealthfront and Personal Capital has made a splash with low-fee asset-allocation through software.

To Nick Stuller, CEO of AdviceIQ and a founding sponsor of National Financial Advisor week now beginning in New York, this means individuals need to re-learn the value of having a human financial advisor to “look you in the eye” and help build a comprehensive family financial plan.

Like the debate over active-versus-passive investing, the argument about whether professional financial advice is worth paying for won’t ever be settled.

Yet Stuller points out that the “investing piece” is often a very small component of a financial-advisory relationship, which encompasses constructing a broad financial plan and evaluating clients’ risk temperament, insurance needs and retirement objectives. (Stuller’s firm operates an online directory of advisors who are vetted for professional credentials and good regulatory records, and publishes financial content on investment advisory subjects.)

The first annual National Financial Advisor Week, underway at venues around Times Square, is meant to spotlight the potentially valuable role financial advisors can play helping people with their long-term money needs.

One common misconception about financial advisors, according to Stuller, is that they are exclusively for high earners or the wealthy. He notes that a whole segment of the industry specializes in catering to first-time investors and those of modest means.

A central service promoted by advisors for all sorts of investors is college savings plans. To draw attention to college expenses, a sweepstakes is underway as part of National Financial Advisor Week that will award an all-expenses-paid four-year college education to one aspiring college student.

Until Tuesday, anyone can register at www.nfaw.com to enter the free sweepstakes, whose winner will be announced Thursday. To qualify, a student must be entering a four-year college beginning in fall 2016.

This prize will relieve one lucky family of the expensive burden of funding college – while reminding everyone else of the need to have a financial plan in place to help pay for the kids’ college costs down the road.

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