Finding a Financial Planner (part 1)

You can certainly go it alone when it comes to managing your money, and you could also try to do it yourself when it comes to auto repair, cutting your own hair or giving yourself a root canal. Doing it yourself is a brilliant idea for some people in some instances and a really, really bad idea for many others.

Learning all the details about managing personal finances requires many hours of research, study, and experience, and it may not be worth your time and effort to develop the expertise you need to make good decisions when it comes to your own personal financial planning.  Plus, the fact that you are emotionally involved with your own finances may prevent you from making an unbiased decision.

A trustworthy financial planner can save you both time and money and help you stay on track with your financial strategies. They can help you tackle a specific financial goal, such as preparing for retirement, saving for college or estate planning.  It may sound crazy to pay someone to keep track on your money, but if you match your needs with their skill-set and knowledge it may be crazier to try and do it yourself.

Finding the right planner requires work and patience, but once you find someone who shares your passion for what you want to accomplish, it can make all the difference in the world when it comes to your financial future.

To help you find the right financial planner, start by having a conversation with your spouse if you are married.  Even if their knowledge of finances and investments is very limited it is important for this to be a collaborative decision. Marriage is a joint effort and the results (good or bad) of your savings and investments will affect both of you—so you both need to be involved in the decision-making.

Single or married, the first step is to decide what you are looking for. Are you only interested in certain financial firms? Are there other financial firms you want to avoid? How aggressive or conservative do you want to be in your investments? Are you looking for someone who provides counsel from a Biblical perspective? Are there certain types of products you do or do NOT want to invest in (annuities, mutual funds, bond, stocks, etc.)?

Do you want to avoid companies or products associated with gambling, alcohol, or pro-choice issues? There may also be investments that you prefer, such as companies that are environmentally friendly, focused on pro-life issues, or businesses that close on Sunday.

If you have a specific interest—such as charitable giving or socially responsible investments or if you’re a newlywed or recently widowed — you’ll want to find a financial planner that concentrates in that area.

Write down your financial goals along with a high-level time line.  Do you have 5 years to prepare for retirement or 25?  It also helps to have documentation on your current financial situation.  How much do you make each month? How much do you spend each month? How much debt do you have? How much do you have saved in what type of accounts (401K, 403B, IRA, Roth, stocks, mutual funds, stocks, annuities, passbook savings, etc.)? Yes, this is personal financial information and yes you will need to share it with a financial planner if you intend to use one.

Once you (and your spouse if you are married) have a high-level idea of your current financial situation, your goals and what you want in a financial planner, seek counsel from godly people. Sirach 32:19 tells us, “Do nothing without counsel, and then you need have no regrets.”

Friends, relatives, and neighbors may all have recommendations about financial planners they trust. They may also have some suggestions about people to stay away from! Some parishes have a resource listing all parishioners who own or run a local business, and there are always advertisements in the back of the bulletin where you can potentially find professionals who have the expertise you are looking for. Use all the resources at your disposal to vet potential advisors.

Assemble the facts that will influence your decisions, then seek God’s direction as well. Anytime you are making a large financial decision it is a good idea to pray about it. We have to remember that answers to prayer will sometimes direct us in a way contrary to our assessment of the facts alone so pray with an open mind.

Once you have a list of names, start investigating. Look at their website–what does it say and does it appeal to you? If you don’t have a website address for them, you can usually find a financial planner by entering their name and “CFP” in a google search. Be cautious if they or their business does not have a website.

Check the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA.org) website. You’ll have to enter the broker’s full name, the Company’s full name, and the zip code. The results will be a report on whether the financial planner has any criminal charges and convictions, formal investigations or disciplinary actions initiated by the regulators, customer disputes and arbitrations or personal financial disclosures such as bankruptcy, unpaid judgments or liens.

Once you find everything you can discover from all public sources, you still have to be sure that they are a good fit for you, and the best way to do that is in a face-to-face meeting. Pick your top three choices, contact them and set up an appointment. In this process, you may encounter financial planners who cater exclusively to clients with a certain level of assets to invest.  If someone you call has criteria you do not meet, move on to the next name on your list.

When you meet with them it’s good to have all your questions written down and to take notes on what you asked and how they answered. We suggest meeting with a minimum of 3 financial planners before deciding who you’ll work with.  

Our next blog (Finding a Financial Planner (part 2)) will delve into more details on qualifications and questions to ask as you look for a financial planner who is right for you.

Posted in Blessings, Blogs, Budgeting, Catholic Money Management

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