Dear Dr. Don,
I am 53 and recently divorced. I want to improve my financial position for retirement and actually determine when I could retire based on my age and the value of my portfolio.
I am not happy with my financial adviser. Where do I start? Who would you recommend to talk to? Is it better to go with a nonprofit (e.g., Thrivent Financial for Lutherans) or a for-profit adviser (e.g., Morgan Stanley) as a financial adviser? Or do I even need a financial adviser?
— Jeff Jump-start
The decision when to retire has a lot more components than just your age and the value of your portfolio. You should take a step back and look at the big picture, namely “What do I want out of life and how can I achieve these life goals?”
Don’t confuse investment advice with financial planning. A comprehensive financial plan looks at more than just your investments. It also looks at your income, goals, taxes, insurance, estate planning, cash management and retirement planning.
I like to think of a financial planner as the quarterback of your financial team. The team may also include other professionals, such as an accountant, attorney, insurance agent and investment adviser. While a financial planner may also wear one or more of these hats too, the planner coordinates the actions of these professionals to make sure that everyone is working toward your goals.
I’d suggest interviewing a few people for the job of being your financial planner. Before you start interviewing, read the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards guide “What You Should Know About Financial Planning” and its publication, “10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Financial Planner.” Bankrate provides a directory of financial professionals on the Web page “Search for a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.”
The Bankrate feature “Financial planners: Not just for millionaires anymore” provides additional background information and defines some of the other professional designations commonly held by professionals practicing financial planning.
I’d argue against a do-it-yourself approach in investing and financial planning. Find a professional you’re comfortable working with and get started.
Read more Dr. Don columns for additional personal finance advice.