When you hear the term “financial advisor,” what comes to mind?
A lot of people think about an experienced expert who can give them financial advice, especially when it comes to investing. That’s a great place to start, but it doesn’t paint the full picture. Not even close! Financial advisors can help people with a bunch of other money goals too.
What Do Financial Advisors Do?
A financial advisor helps you create strategies for eliminating financial risk and building wealth over the long term. They can give you a game plan that puts you on track to achieve your financial goals.
Financial advisors don’t come in a one-size-fits-all package. They get different degrees and certifications. They come from diverse backgrounds and offer a wide range of services. Because of that, they can do much more than explain confusing jargon and help you pick mutual funds.
Simply put, financial advisors help you with all types of financial planning. That means they can help you with everything from budgeting to saving for retirement.
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Think of the term “financial advisor” as an umbrella term over different types of financial professionals. It’s sort of like how we call most medical professionals “doctors” even though they specialize in different areas of medicine.
Here are some of the different types of financial advisors you might come across during your financial journey:
- Financial coaches (also known as “financial counselors”)
- Investment professionals
- Tax professionals
- Wealth managers
- Financial planners
Each type of financial advisor is uniquely qualified to help you reach different financial goals. Let’s check out some of the things that a financial advisor can help you with.
Debt is not your friend! Debt is a thief that can seriously complicate your finances and keep you from making progress toward your long-term goals. While you don’t need a financial advisor’s help to get yourself out of debt, your advisor can show you the benefits of being debt-free. For example, how it helps you save for retirement, a new home or your kid’s college.
A financial coach can help you get out of debt with a personal plan and will encourage you to tackle your debt and get it out of your life as fast as you can. They want you to stop paying for the past so you can start planning for the future.
Budgeting to Reach Financial Goals
We all need someone in our corner to remind us of the big picture and to cheer us on as we work toward our goals. A financial advisor—particularly a financial coach—can help you understand what actions you need to take to reach those long-term goals, whether you want to send your kids off to college, buy a new house, or pay for an adoption.
But just having goals isn’t enough. You need to get on a zero-based budget to help you get there, which means you’re giving every single dollar an assignment. By strategically telling your money where to go, you can begin budgeting for those big goals and make your dreams a reality.
Health and Long-Term Care Planning
According to a recent study, a 65-year-old couple retiring this year can expect to pay almost $390,000 for health care costs during their retirement.1
What can you do to prepare for those major expenses in that chapter of your life? A financial advisor—like a financial coach—can explain your options for long-term care insurance. Then you can choose a plan that’s affordable both now and in the future, when you’ll need it the most.
Talking about end-of-life planning may seem downright depressing, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you just bought your first home or have been running your own business for 30 years, you get to choose what to do with those assets you’ve worked so hard for.
But if your situation is more complex, working with a financial advisor (particularly a wealth manager if you’re managing an estate worth millions of dollars) or an attorney with estate planning experience is a must. They can give you the guidance you need to create a plan to make sure your wishes are carried out. You can’t put a price tag on the peace of mind that comes with that!
What does your dream retirement look like? Do you want to travel the world? Visit your grandkids? Open your own business? Volunteer at the local homeless shelter? No matter what your dream is, you need to have stable income streams to carry you through two or three decades—or more.
A financial advisor like an investment professional can help you not only build wealth, but also protect it for the long term. They can estimate your projected financial needs and strategize ways to stretch your retirement savings. They can advise you on when to take your required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your investment accounts so you can avoid the nasty penalties. And they can also help you figure out when to tap into Social Security.
If you expect to receive an inheritance down the road, you may be wondering about everything from the tax implications to the best way to use the funds. A financial advisor—think wealth managers and financial coaches—can help keep that blessing from becoming a burden.
They can advise you on how to adjust your financial goals and strategies, and they can tackle hard questions—like projected taxes. They can also walk you through the practical steps to take when that time comes.
Nobody likes taxes. No matter how old you are, dealing with taxes can feel overwhelming—especially as you grow your wealth and get closer to that dream retirement. A tax professional can explain in plain English how taxes will impact your finances.
Whether it’s advising on charitable donations, constructing a tax-efficient estate plan, or making the most of tax breaks available to you, their goal is to minimize your tax burden while providing the best possible returns. That means more money in your pocket instead of Uncle Sam’s!
Keep in mind, though, you should never make investing decisions based solely on taxes.
Some financial advisors are also investment professionals. Like SmartVestor Pros, they can help you figure out what mutual funds are right for you and show you how to manage and make the most of your investments. They can also help you understand the risks and what you’ll need to do to achieve your goals.
A seasoned professional can also help you stay on the roller coaster of investing when it takes a dive. They know that what goes down—mutual funds—will likely go back up. Because they can remain emotionally neutral, they can be a voice of reason that reminds you to look at your investments with a long lens. They offer a level of service that makes their expertise a crucial part of any retirement plan.
Cost of a Financial Advisor
Before you hire a financial advisor, make sure you have a good understanding of what you’re actually paying for. The cost of a financial advisor can vary depending on how they charge their fees, such as: fee-only, fee-based and commission-based.
You might pay less at the beginning with fee-based and commission-based advisors, but the catch is that these types of advisors work on a commission of any products they sell you. So, it’s not a stretch to say that they’re more likely to push you into buying their products. Financial decisions can already feel daunting and you don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart. A fee-only advisor may cost more up front but they can sometimes end up being the better way to go.
Another fee option to consider is a financial advisor that charges a certain percentage based off of the assets they manage for you, which can range from 0.5% to 2%.
Overall, there are different types of cost structures when it comes to financial advisors. Fees can vary from one financial advisor to another, so it’s important to understand exactly how they structure their fees before working with them and how those fees stack up over the life of your investment.
Do You Need a Financial Advisor?
There’s a lot more to creating a financial plan than just picking the right mutual funds. You need to get on a budget and stick to it. You need a strategy and action steps to grow and build your retirement accounts. And you need to stay focused and intentional in planning for the future. It’s your life and your money, so take charge!
A financial advisor can come alongside you to educate and encourage you as you work toward your goals. Think of them like your own personal coach and cheerleading squad.
If you’re out of debt and ready to start investing, we'd encourage you to speak with a SmartVestor Pro—it’s free to get connected to an investment professional in your area. With SmartVestor, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing you’re working with someone who really does have your best interest at heart.
Time to get your money to work!