A financial planner, or financial adviser is someone who analyses and organizes your finances, and helps you get on track as far as working towards your financial goals. A financial planner isn’t an accountant or tax preparer, although they can help in these area. And you don’t need to be a millionaire to use the services of a financial planner; just about everyone can benefit from the expertise of one of the 350,000 planners in the US.
Financial planning is all about identifying your financial goals and then putting a plan in place to help you reach those goals, whether it’s an early retirement, putting the kids through college or making as much as possible from your investments. Your planner can advise you on the best retirement account for your situation, how much insurance you need, whether it would pay you to refinance your mortgage, how to start an emergency savings fund, and how to get the most back from your taxes. Most financial planners don’t actually sell insurance policies or investments, but will recommend a particular product or program. Many planners offer investment advice, and many also specialize in estate planning and the best way to deal with an inheritance. In short, a good financial planner can look at your overall situation and can tell you what to do differently.
Most planners offer an initial no obligation and free consultation, after that you will be paying for their advice and guidance. If you work with a financial planner, their first step is to collect as much relevant personal and financial information about you, as well as talking to you to determine your goals. The next step involves coming up with a clearly defined plan of action to help you achieve those goals, which may take years, of course. Your planner will check in with you from time to time, make sure you are following the plan and can address any issues or changes in circumstances which may arise.
A good financial planner also offers support as well as advice, and will typically tell you to not expend too much energy over the things you have little or no control over, such as inflation, the stock market or the future of Social Security. Some planners have a particular area of expertise, such as working with those close to retirement, developing a realistic savings plan or planning for their child’s college expenses.