When it comes to managing your money, you don’t want anyone messing it up — and that includes you. There might come a time where you need to call in reinforcements and hire a financial advisor, especially when you’re making big decisions with your money.

Not everyone’s financial situation calls for the extra help, but in some instances you might need one. Here’s how to tell if getting a financial advisor is right for you.

What financial advisors do

A financial advisor helps individuals manage their money and map out their financial futures. For example, financial advisors can help you plan for retirement, budget, plan your estate and more. They also help you set your personal financial goals to reach milestones.

For instance, some people might want to buy a house soon while others are focusing on saving for retirement. A good financial advisor takes into account your family, age, career and priorities when crafting your financial goals, and then helps you find out how to reach them.

Keep in mind that goals change. Once you hit that next milestone or you feel like you want to change course, your financial advisor can help you figure out your next steps.

When to get a financial advisor

Not everyone needs a financial advisor, especially since it’s an additional cost. But having the extra help and advice can be paramount in reaching financial goals, especially if you’re feeling stuck or unsure of how to get there. Here are three key reasons why you may need assistance.

Life events

Graduating college, getting married, expanding your family and starting a business are some major life events that might cause you to reevaluate your financial situation. A financial advisor can help you manage these life events while making sure you get or stay on track.

Lack of experience

Whether you have complicated finances or you don’t know how certain things work, hiring a professional can help you grasp concepts you weren’t familiar with. Some people need the extra assistance and if you have the means, getting personalized help can make a big difference.

Developing a strategy

A financial advisor is someone who can help you hone in on your goals and help you map out a way to achieve them. This can be anything from starting to invest, buying real estate, saving for an emergency or retirement, or something else. Whether you have one main goal or many, a financial advisor is your guide in creating and achieving those goals.

What type of financial advisor do I need?

There are so many different types of financial advisors that it can be a bit overwhelming. The type to use depends on your needs and goals. A few of the major types of financial advisors include:

  • Certified financial planner (CFP). This person has been awarded the CFP designation by the CFP board and is highly qualified to advise you on a wide range of topics. This can be anything from starting to invest to saving for long-term goals. They have practiced for thousands of hours and passed an exam to get to this level, and they’re tasked with a fiduciary duty to operate in your best interest.
  • Robo-advisor. If you’re just starting to invest in something like an IRA, a robo-advisor is a great introductory point. Once you choose your robo-advisor, you’ll fill out a questionnaire that determines your risk aversion and assesses your goals, and your robo-advisor chooses your investment portfolio. You can then link your bank account and start auto-depositing money every month. It’s truly the set-it-and-forget-it model.
  • Wealth manager. If you’re a high-net-worth individual, you might need someone to give you personalized, tailored advice and make financial decisions on your behalf. That’s a wealth manager. They have strong knowledge in managing investment, estate and tax planning and other financial topics.

If you’re looking for someone to cheer you on to meet your goals or you have some basic financial questions, you might want to enlist the help of a financial coach or financial consultant. Keep in mind that these folks might not have any certifications, but they do have knowledge in basic financial topics.

It’s a good idea to vet all professionals before paying for services.

Questions to ask a financial advisor

As you’re considering hiring a financial advisor, it’s a good idea to screen possible candidates by asking them a few key questions, like:

  • Are you a fiduciary? A fiduciary is someone who puts the needs of their client above everything else. If you’re looking for someone to always act in your best interest — not theirs or their firm’s — ask if they are a fiduciary. Then get them to put it in writing.
  • How are you paid? There are a few different ways financial professionals are paid: fee-only, commission-based or a mix of both. A fee-only financial advisor means you pay someone for services rendered and they aren’t getting paid by anyone else (like third-party companies). A commission-based or even a fee-based advisor is someone who gets paid by companies for promoting their products. So you could get advice that increases their paycheck but doesn’t necessarily align with your goals or values.
  • How will you help me? Having a helpful financial advisor is key, so have them answer this question. What happens in a market downturn or if you lose your job? See how they respond in different scenarios. You want someone to help you wade through the rough waters and get you to dry land, so avoid going with someone that could set you up for bad money moves, like making drastic decisions during uncertainty.

Bottom line

While not everyone needs a financial advisor, many people would benefit from personalized advice to help them build a strong financial future. You don’t need to have a lot of wealth to take advantage of a financial advisor. If you’re interested in finding a financial advisor in your area, check out Bankrate’s financial advisor matching tool to find one close to you.

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