In this day and age, we have endless responsibilities competing for our time. Some decisions are complicated and have serious repercussions if we make a poor choice, or neglect to act. Traditionally, we’ve learned to seek guidance from our elders when we lack the knowledge or experience to handle a new situation. But in our digital world of fast-moving developments, we can benefit from leaning on some additional experts for guidance.
In Terms of Finances
As a society, we’re also living longer than ever before. This means we need to make decisions about money that could potentially last decades beyond our ability to earn an income. (Think retirement!) Housing, raising children, education, running a business… all items that are many times more expensive and complicated now than they were only a generation ago.
Who can help?
I’m here to offer a few thoughts on how you can out-source some of your financial management duties to folks who are trained to do just that.
Here is a list of people that can be called upon to be part of your “Financial Planning Team”:
Tax Professional or Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
- One of the first financial professionals someone may seek out is a tax expert. Normally it’s because you’ve started earning an income and need to pay taxes.
- Not all tax professionals are CPAs who have extensive training and meet certification requirements. Which tax professional is right for you will depend on the complexity of your personal circumstances and on your budget. CPAs are typically more costly because you are paying for their[i] experience.
Estate Planning Attorney
- These professionals handle things such as Wills, Powers of Attorney (POAs) and Health Care Directives. Legal matters are complicated. A misstep could do more harm than good. This isn’t a place to save a few bucks and forego planning or attempt to do it online. A vast majority of people would benefit greatly from having basic estate planning documents that are current.
- Some common events that may warrant getting documents or having them updated: marriage, divorce, welcoming children into the family, experiencing a cash-windfall such as an inheritance, a death in the family or being in a relationship that doesn’t benefit from legal protections, for example: domestic partnerships or long-term housemates (think two sisters growing old together).
Real Estate Attorney & Mortgage Broker/Lender
- A real estate attorney deals with the sale and purchase of residential or commercial buildings. They are different from estate planning attorneys, in that their focus is in current transactions, and not on the disposal of assets at death or incapacitation. Usually you’ll want to choose an attorney who specializes in one area, but it’s possible they (or their office) handles both types of law. These professionals may be hired by the bank to perform certain transactions. It’s wise to hire your own representation to ensure your interests are protected, especially in more complicated buys/sells.
- A mortgage broker or lender is a professional that helps a buyer obtain or refinance a loan in connection with a real estate property. Brokers will shop around for the best loans and charge a fee above that of the loan itself. Lenders use representatives to directly sell their loan options. It makes sense to speak with a few of these professionals the first time around and find one that the best fit for your personal style and preferences. Going it alone may mean that you miss an important step that may cause problems down the line.
Financial Advisor or Financial Planner, of course!
- First, some basic clarification on terms… Titles such as advisor/planner/professional are a bit generic by definition. Firms have specific requirements for how these tiles are used, based on licensing. Independent professionals may call themselves whatever they see fit. Advisors/planners/representatives may hold a number of licenses and get compensated in various ways. It’s best to think about what you need and what kind of a professional is the best fit. Always ask what licenses they hold and how they get paid. This is far more important than their title.
- Some financial professionals specialize in only one particular area, such as investments, insurance or comprehensive planning. Others are licensed for all these services; they may be better able to serve your needs. These advisors will typically be your first point of contact for any of your financial needs. As your wealth grows, its not uncommon for additional advisors to come into the mix to handle individual aspects of your plan, as needed.
Some Final Tips
When looking for a financial, legal or tax professional, it’s important to remember that these are distinct disciplines. Meaning, one of these professionals will not typically be trained to do the jobs of the others, or they may actively practice in only one of these areas. This is why I highlight the importance of building a team as your personal needs become more complicated.
Where to Start
You can begin by doing some research online, asking your friends/family for a referral or reaching out to one of your existing professionals for names of people to consider. Ask about their services, how they get paid and what their typical process is when working with them. You may want to work with someone who has similar values or has certain areas of expertise. It’s also OK to move along once you determine a professional relationship is no longer a good fit.
Whatever your preferences, you’ll likely do better by not going it alone!
To learn more about how I might be able to guide you in your financial life and help eliminate some of the stress that comes with managing money, schedule a complimentary initial consultation at: https://calendly.com/planningforgood/complimentary-initial-consultation-website
(Please note that this information is provided by me, Karen Melo Ticas, CFP®, strictly as general advice based solely on my personal education and years of experience in the financial services industry, unless otherwise noted. When making decisions, consider working with a professional that is well informed about your individual circumstances.) CRN202212-275121
[i] The use of gender-neutral pronouns is intentional.