When Maryan got divorced after more than 20 years of marriage, she knew she needed to learn about investing. She also needed to find a job. So combining the two, she trained to become a financial planner. Making such a career change isn’t an option for many of us so instead one of the people we need in our support network is a financial adviser.
“Find someone who you feel you can talk to,” Maryan says. “Someone who will educate you about your finances.”
If you’ve never handled the household bills and you need help learning how to budget start by looking for adult education classes on money management or, if you can learn from a book, there are lots of “how-to” books on the topic.
“To really get control over spending, write it down,” Maryan says, “everyday, what you spend and you’ll see. It’s amazing. Those lattes really add up. So if you’re looking to save money, don’t have so many lattes. Make it a weekend treat or something once or twice a week. But take control.”
If you need help figuring out where to invest, how to pay for your child’s college tuition or how to plan for your retirement, then a financial adviser can help. Recommendations from friends are helpful but remember everyone’s finances are different. So choose an adviser because of what they’ll be able to do for you.
“Work with someone who isn’t just going to do it for you but is going to educate you along the way,” Maryan says.
A good resource here in the U.S. is FINRA – the Financial Industry Regulatory Agency. At this website, you can find out what any of the dazzling array of professional designations actually mean and you can do a background check on an individual investment professional or firm.
I worked for a number of years in financial services and handled many customer complaints. With that background, I have a few more recommendations to add to Maryan’s:
- Know how your financial adviser is paid. Some work on a fee-only basis which means you pay them directly; some work on commission paid by the financial institution whose product you buy and some work on a combination;
- If you don’t understand a product or how it meets your financial needs, don’t buy it;
- Always read your statements promptly and question anything you don’t recognize;
- If a deal sounds too good to be true – it probably is – be extra, extra cautious.
Most important, trust your inner voice. Don’t cave to pressure and avoid rash decisions you’ll regret later.