5 Important Questions to Ask your Financial Planner

Hiring a financial planner is one of the most important steps to take toward your financial health and retirement. Many consumers assume that financial planners will automatically provide all information needed upon consultation, but it is the consumer’s job to convey his or her needs and ask the right questions to receive the best service possible.

Fiduciary Status

One of the most important questions to ask a financial planner is whether or not he or she is a fiduciary. Fiduciaries work hard to put the needs of their clients before their own, ensuring that your services are not tied to a commission or other monetary benefit for your planner. While planners should receive payments for services rendered, non-fiduciary planners may put their own benefits first, and provide you with advice that is not in your best interest.

Certification

Your financial planner may advertise as a certified planner, but that can mean many things. Ask which type of certification your planner has to be certain. The most common type of certification, chartered certified analyst or CFA, proves that the planner has had extensive training in investing, portfolio management and finances. A certified financial planner, or CFP, has passed tests, takes continuing education credits and has at least three years of experience. A chartered retirement planning counselor has specialized training for retirement consulting through the College of Financial Planning. Check your planner’s credentials, because anyone can claim to be a planner.

Compensation

Financial planners are paid with fees that they charge or by commission, but even those two categories can get more complicated. Some financial planners charge a percentage of the assets that you have them manage, while others have a flat rate. Percentage rates may be charged once or on a quarterly or monthly basis. Hourly payments, per-project fees and retainers are also possibilities. Ask your planner how he or she expects to be compensated in order to plan out your fee schedule and costs. Review all costs before you sign any contracts.

Types of Services

Although many people believe that a financial planner is a jack of all trades when it comes to finances, in reality many only specialize in one type of service, like getting out of debt or retirement plans. Some planners may not help with tax services at all, while others cover everything from savings to stock portfolios. Inquire about the types of services offered before signing on with any financial planner. Tell the advisor all of your needs to make sure he or she is capable of handling your workload as well.

Even if it seems like too much work, hiring a financial planner is supposed to reduce your workload in the long run. When you prepare with good questions and a checklist of your needs, you can help yourself select the best financial advisor to suit your individual situation.

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Things to Get Rid of Once You Retire

Downsizing may sound like a chore, but by the time you retire, de-cluttering is often a freeing process. With fewer things to keep track and take care of, you can focus on traveling, moving to a smaller place with less upkeep and achieving more of your retirement dreams. Organizing experts say to get rid of the stuff while keeping the memories.

Paperwork

From hoarders who keep boxes of files stacked high to the ceiling to the average worker who holds onto receipts and tax returns, most people hold onto too much paperwork. After seven years, it is time to throw away documents like these. Many people hold onto lots of sentimental paper items as well, from greeting cards to school forms. Consider whether or not these are truly worth keeping as you enter retirement and get rid of the items you no longer need.

Sentimental Items

Along the same line as greeting cards, there are knickknacks, trophies, photos and other sentimental items to purge. While you should hold onto the special items in your home, if you are moving to a smaller house, entering a retirement center or hitting the road in an RV, you cannot take it all with you. Choose a few items with the most meaning, then give the rest to your friends and family members who would treasure the items as sentimental gifts. For extensive collections, select the favorite piece to keep and give away or sell the rest. Take photos of items to remember them by if you wish.

Books

They are heavy, they take up space and they are usually easy to come by. If you have a lot of books that you will not be able to fit into your retirement space, get rid of them. Hold onto the favorites that you re-read or any special books that you own if you prefer, such as any books signed by their authors, but otherwise donate your books. You can check out most of them with a library card. You can also invest in an electronic reader to access hundreds of books at once digitally with minimal space.

Bulky Items

Exercise equipment, large appliances that you no longer need and bulky furniture that sits unused can all be downsized. Do the same with any boxes of items you have sitting in storage that will also never be of use, saving you storage money as well. Anything that has not been used in the last six months should be considered for donation or gift giving. You may also wish to get rid of any extra cars that you own to decrease costs ranging from maintenance to taxes.

While ridding yourself of unnecessary items as you prepare for retirement, do not forget about the number one thing to toss: your debt. Getting rid of debt is an ongoing process that you should begin much earlier in life. Hopefully you will manage to do that well before the age of retirement to provide yourself with some peace of mind in your senior years.

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5 Amazing Finance Blogs that will help you Save Money for Life after Work

Although you may consider your retirement to be ‘many years away from now,’ the truth is that this time of your life has a habit of sneaking up on you before you realize it. This is why it is crucial to start your retirement planning as early as possible, and there are some wonderful finance blogs that can provide you with a wealth of information in this regard.

Mint.com

If you thought that Mint was only an app to help you plan your budget, then you’re wrong. Not only does their app allow you to organize and categorize all of your financial accounts in one place; the site comes complete with a regularly updated blog, which covers topics such as saving money in your monthly budget, dealing with your 401(k), credit card information and comparisons, how to start and build an emergency fund and how to avoid credit card and/or identity theft and fraud.

TheSimpleDollar.com

This blog has been written by Trent Hamm, who knows what it feels like to not have a handle on personal finances – until he took control of the situation and turned it around completely. He shares content pertaining to saving money on everyday expenses, various tips on investing, how to use credit cards responsibly, how to obtain the best type of car loans and cost of living comparisons for various cities. He even has information pertaining to free or extremely affordable forms of entertainment.

BankRate.com

There aren’t many other blogs that provide as much information pertaining to savings, credit cards, student loans, mortgages, vehicle loans, insurance and home equity as Bank Rate. A range of handy calculator tools are available here as well, all of which can help you see how much money you can save by making a few changes to your regular financial habits, and there is even a specific section of the site dedicated to retirement planning.

GetRichSlowly.org

Time Magazine rated this as one of the best blogs of 2011, which shows that it is highly informative, easy to read and offers practical advice for all areas of your budget. The site offers reviews of different banking products and which credit cards offer zero interest balance transfers and how to plan your finances up to a year in advance.

Squawkfox.com

When it comes to dealing with personal finance, who says it has to be boring or only offer traditional ‘financial’ information? Blog owner Kerry K. Taylor started sharing her money-saving information online back in 2008, and her content is well-written, to the point and highly creative. Topics that she covers include living frugally while still having fun, organizing and de-cluttering your home (and finances, of course) and numerous budget-friendly recipes.

Regardless of what condition your current finances are in, the information in each of these blogs will help you get them on track in the most practical ways possible – all of which will enable you to achieve your goal of retiring as comfortably as possible.

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5 Things you should Never Spend your Money on in Retirement

While your retirement years are supposed to be as carefree and enjoyable as possible, this status can only be achieved if you have made, and continue to make, the right financial choices along the way. Below are a few items or scenarios that you should never waste money on during your golden years.

Loans to Friends or Family Members

After retiring, you may find that your daily expenses are substantially lower than they were while you were working. This could result in you having a little extra cash on hand from time to time. While you may be tempted to use some of it to bail family or even friends out of tight financial spots, this is seldom a good idea, as you not only stand little chance of getting that money back again; you could find yourself going short at some point in future as well.

Brand New Vehicles

In most cases, it is not financially wise to purchase a brand new vehicle because these depreciate by as much as 30% the moment they are driven out of the showroom – and as a retiree, you simply cannot afford to lose that amount of money for no good reason. If you need to replace an existing vehicle, it is better to purchase a one or two year old model that has been well taken care of along by its previous owner.

Credit Card Interest

Although this should go without saying, you may still be struggling to repay credit card debt well after you have stopped working. This not only reduces the amount of money that you have to live on each month; in many cases, the amount of interest that is charged on credit card purchases could result in you paying more than twice the original price of the items that were purchased on credit.

Anything that Sounds too Good to be True

Sadly, thousands of retirees are scammed out of money each year because of slick-sounding conmen who promise that they can ‘double their investment in just a few months’ – which can sound like nothing short of a lifeline to those who have not saved enough for retirement. It is recommended that you only work with licensed and registered investment brokers or retirement specialists – if they are not willing to provide proof of their registration, steer clear.

Full Price

Many companies and venues offer a wide range of senior citizen discounts for products and services rendered, which are usually available upon providing proof of your age to them. As a result, you could enjoy discounted hotel stays, vehicle rentals, purchases in some stores on specified days of the week or even reduced price medical services in some cases. The adage of ‘you don’t know unless you ask’ most certainly applies here.

If you have recently retired and are not sure whether you have made the right financial decisions or you would like to obtain further information pertaining to investing, feel free to schedule an appointment with us today.

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