Question: I am a 93-year-old woman with a condo that’s paid for. I’m in pretty good health. I have $138,000 in savings and $109,000 in a conservative portfolio, which I manage myself. I have a tendency to be frugal and consider myself of above average intelligence. So far, I have managed just fine. Should I hire a financial adviser?

Answer: Congratulations on maintaining good health and managing your own finances. You may or may not need a financial adviser — and you may want to consider an estate-planning attorney too. Here are the details on each. (Looking for a new financial adviser? This tool can match you to an adviser who may meet your needs.)

Have an issue with your financial adviser or looking for a new one? Email [email protected].

Do you need a financial adviser?

You may not need one, as you do seem to have a good handle on your finances and hiring one will cost you. That said, it could make sense to do a one-time check up with a certified financial planner (CFP), if you do have questions about things like whether you might run out of money, your overall asset allocation, and more. 

“You would be best served by a financial planner who charges hourly or by project because you don’t need to have a long-term relationship with a planner at this point. You just need someone who will help you plan your future and be there to answer questions,” says certified financial planner Tara Unverzagt at South Bay Financial Partners.

And Neela Hummel, certified financial planner and co-CEO of Abacus Wealth Partners says: “Though you likely don’t need ongoing financial advice, having a professional take a look at your investments, examine your overall cash allocation and make sure your estate planning is lined up with your wishes would be wise,” says Neela Hummel, certified financial planner and co-CEO of Abacus Wealth Partners in Santa Monica, California.

An adviser could also help you determine the maximum amount you have the capacity to spend, while also keeping in mind your legacy goals. “If you need to determine the amount you want to keep in cash versus invest now, or figure out if Roth conversions may be beneficial to you — or you want to talk through your current estate plan and get assistance with outstanding items like trusts or wills — working with a planner can be helpful. If you own your home, evaluate the use of a reverse mortgage if you need additional capital or have a large unexpected expense. You may also just want a sounding board and reassurance on what you have done and plan to do in the future,” says Terrance Hutchins, certified financial planner at Logos Financial Group.

While a financial adviser can weigh in and provide general guidance on estate planning issues, an estate attorney is the person who can actually draft a contract, create a will, implement a power of attorney and confer with a financial adviser in creating legal documents. More on that later.

Another thing a financial planner could help with are some of the tax issues you may face (though note that you may need an accountant for specialized tax issues if they arise). “It’s beneficial to seek a second option to ensure your investment is optimized in every aspect, including tax implications. This ensures you make the most informed decisions,” says certified financial planner Alonso Rodriguez Segarra at Advise Financial. 

For his part, Gabriel Shahin, certified financial planner at Falcon Wealth Planning, says: “It depends on your needs, but for someone frugal, you may complain about taxes and maybe you need to discuss how the capital gains, 1099-INT, or dividends are causing taxation on Social Security where it can be tax free. Maybe it’s causing additional taxation on Medicare and should be converted to Roth. If you’re in a low tax bracket, you might be able to sell your positions tax-free.” 

In short, having a professional weigh in on your situation will likely be beneficial, but it also might not be necessary. Note that many planners offer a free initial consultation, so that could be worthwhile just to see what they might help you with. But, if you already have all of those above issues figured out, don’t pay a CFP — rates for hourly planners runs between $150 and $450 per hour — to do it for you.

(Looking for a new financial adviser? This tool can match you to an adviser who may meet your needs.)

Do you need an estate planning attorney?

Consider more than just your investments when evaluating your finances, says Segarra. “It’s essential to think about estate planning aspects and financial power of attorney in case you require assistance in the future,” says Segarra.

Having an estate planning attorney can be helpful in creating wills, trusts, power of attorney and healthcare directives, among other things. A financial planner can assist in the creation of these with regards to divvying up finances and separating assets, but an attorney is required to implement these documents.

Having a revocable trust with you as a trustee and a co-trustee in whom you’re fully confident is a partial solution, but you may also want a living will and a health care power of attorney. “A high degree of due diligence is necessary and most financial advisers are not licensed attorneys and cannot prepare trusts, so bottom line, your top priority should be coming up with a financial plan to manage all of your affairs, not just your portfolio,” says Nelson.

Other things to consider

Right now, your biggest risk is probably managing potential decline as you age. “The very first thought that leaps out at me is, who do you trust completely to manage your personal affairs should you need help? By that, I mean personal affairs well beyond the scope of a financial adviser. Many people have relatives or close friends who will fill this role. Sadly, others have relatives or close friends who will take advantage of them,” says certified financial planner Brad Nelson at Point Loma Advisors.

If you don’t have it already, what you need is a complete financial plan that includes close attention to the necessary documents and arrangements accounting for any potential mental or physical decline. “A financial adviser who prepares a plan and makes referrals that explicitly place high importance on these arrangements could be of substantial value to you,” says Nelson.

(Looking for a new financial adviser? This tool can match you to an adviser who may meet your needs.)

Have an issue with your financial adviser or looking for a new one? Email [email protected].


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