Do I Need A Financial Advisor?

9/20/2018 - By Chris Stennett, CFP®

One of the most common questions I hear from friends and prospective clients is “Do I need a Financial Advisor?” Asking a Financial Advisor “Do I need an Advisor?” is like asking a Girl Scout “Do I need cookies?” Instead of providing them with a biased yes or no answer, I prefer to talk to them about the common reasons people decide to work with an advisor. I’ve learned over the years that hiring a Financial Advisor is a personal decision that requires being honest with yourself about your knowledge, available time, and desire to build and maintain a plan for the future. If you’re on the fence about needing help, then read on and see if you identify with these common reasons.

Perspective

The main reason an individual seeks out an advisor is because that advisor possesses information the individual does not. Let me be clear. I am not saying the advisor is more intelligent than the individual. Simply, the individual has a gap in knowledge on financial topics.  Think about it this way: the last time your vehicle’s check engine light came on, did you handle it yourself or take it to someone else? I take my car to a mechanic, because I know that check engine light can represent a spectrum of potential issues. While I may be able to change my own oil, that’s where my automotive expertise ends. When making important decisions, people tend to feel more confident when they have an educated perspective to draw from.

Furthermore, having access to an objective opinion can help clients better manage their emotions. Money is important to all of us, albeit in different ways. If something is important, it carries an added emotional weight. When things aren’t going well, like the stock market going down, that added emotional weight can cause people to behave in irrational ways. In 2008, during the peak of the mortgage crisis, I was working in a call center for a large 401(k) provider. Investors were calling me because they saw their account balances going down and wanted to stop it. I had conversation after conversation about the old saying “buy low, sell high”. These were educated people, often decades away from retirement, asking me to help them make an irrational decision. A good advisor can help their clients separate their emotions from the decision-making process.

Managing client expectations is also important. As individuals, we all fall victim to comparing our situation against others, especially with the advent of social media. Advisors regularly hear these false comparisons, as their clients can’t help but to compare their life to those of others. Advisors have a responsibility to treat each client's situation as unique. This approach helps the advisor educate clients on their realistic expectations. The clients can then compare their progress to a more appropriate benchmark and form their own conclusions.

Time

Some people feel they have the perspective to manage their finances, yet they deal with competing priorities. Believe it or not, this is often the case with retirees. Over the years, I’ve found that some of my busiest clients are those no longer working. While they may have a lifetime of financial education under their belts, they prioritize their time. They will outsource activities such as financial planning, to free up capacity. Whether it’s traveling, volunteering, or making up for lost time with loved ones, these clients are willing to pay someone else to give them back time.

High income earners are also very willing to hire a financial advisor due to their competing priorities. If you make a great income, the cost of hiring an advisor may be cheaper than you spending your own time doing the same thing.  Many advisors charge their clients based on the amount of money they manage, reducing those fees as a client invests more. These clients are willing to offload the work and time of managing their financial affairs. They do so because they understand two important concepts. First, management of these funds is important and needs to happen. Second, there’s an opportunity cost in spending their own time managing their affairs. That opportunity cost may far exceed the cost of hiring a professional to do the work for them. 

As we move deeper into the age of technology, we will continue to see new products and ideas come to the market. Keeping pace with the current level of change is difficult for most advisors, who do this as their full-time job. So, it’s understandable that people often chose to work with an advisor to offload that homework onto someone more willing. 

Desire

Personal desire shouldn’t be overlooked when deciding whether you should hire a professional. Many people turn to an advisor for help, since they don’t enjoy managing their own portfolio. While they may have the knowledge and the time, they recognize that managing investments isn’t something they want to do.  

Financial advisors have chosen a career of service. Most advisors do their job because they enjoy the profession. Clients seek out advisors, because they recognize that they don’t have that passion but value the fact that they can entrust their money to someone who does. As you can see, there’s a wide range of reasons people choose to get help managing their money. If you identified with one of these reasons, then it’s probably time to consult with some advisors in your area. 

At Saltmarsh Financial Advisors, we operate under the Fiduciary standard with our clients. We are required to put our client's interest above our own. We have flexible options for how we can deliver guidance to our clients because we understand that each case is unique. If you’d like to learn more about us or would like to schedule time to speak with an advisor, go to the “Contact Us” page on our website to let us know.

About the Author | Chris Stennett, CFP®
Chris is a financial advisor and Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner for Saltmarsh Financial Advisors, LLC, an affiliate of Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund. He serves individuals and organizations as a comprehensive financial planner and coordinator of investment activities. His areas of expertise include investment management, income planning, tax and estate planning, incapacity protection, and liability management.

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