A financial planner will be able to connect all of the financial dots in order to provide you with an overall plan to meet your financial goals. He or she should have training and experience in all kinds of financial products and financial aspects of your life – equities, bonds, insurance, taxes, and estate planning – in order to make the right recommendations for your personal situation. A financial planner can also save you thousands of dollars in tax deductions and find higher-yielding investment products at little or no extra risk.
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The fees will vary depending on the education and experience level of the financial planner, and how the fees are assessed. In general, a financial planner will charge based on one of two ways: commission or fee-only. If the planner charges based on commission, the amount will usually be a percentage of each transaction or assets under management. If the compensation structure is fee-only, he or she will typically charge an hourly rate or will quote a specified fee for the services provided.
There are a number of different financial planning certifications. While a financial planning professional can have any of several designations or certifications, at the very least you should make sure that he or she is licensed and in good standing with the licensing authority. Three of the most common designations are Certified Financial Planner, Chartered Financial Consultant, and Registered Investment Advisor.
Choose a financial planner who has experience dealing with clients in similar circumstances to yours. You’ll also want to make sure that the financial planner has your best interests in mind, and that he or she isn’t selling you products that are not suited to your needs. Interview prospective financial planners and ask them about credentials, management strategies, and history of performance. Call up past clients as references.
Asset allocation refers to the diversity of your entire savings and investment portfolio across asset classes. Stocks, bonds, cash and real estate are asset classes. Diversification refers to the types of investments held within each class. For example, both 3M and Union Pacific are high-cap equities in the Industrials sector. Because they’re in the same sector, these two stocks are likely to move up or down together. However, Tyson Foods is in the Consumer Staples sector. It is not likely to move in tandem with 3M or Union Pacific. Owning 3M and Tyson Foods provides diversification within the asset class of stocks. But that’s not enough. A portfolio that invests in multiple types of assets, not just stocks, is also important.
Your plan should be to interview several financial advisors to find one that meets your investment style, has a good track record of returns, is open about his or her fee structure, and discloses any conflicts of interest. During the interview process, ask questions that address these main points. Ask the advisor for references and follow up with them to make sure the advisor is trustworthy.