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Getting Help With Your Investments

  • Matt Bell SoundMindInvesting.com
  • 2011 12 Dec
  • COMMENTS
Getting Help With Your Investments

Investing well is arguably the most challenging part of personal finance.  Throw a volatile economy into the mix, and it can seem impossible.

That’s why you might consider working with an investment pro.  Having someone on your team whose full-time job is to recommend and/or manage investments can help lessen the stress of investing – assuming, of course, that you pick the right pro.  Here’s what to look for.

The Right Credentials

One of the most important credentials an investment advisor can hold is that of Certified Financial Planner (CFP®).  Seeing those letters after someone’s name means they have completed coursework in all aspects of financial planning, passed a torturous 10-hour exam, have at least three years of full-time financial planning work experience, commit to follow stringent ethics standards, and continue to take financial planning courses.

It isn’t the only designation that matters, but it’s one of the best.  I know a financial planner who is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and also holds a Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) designation.  I would feel equally confident working with him as I would a CFP.

One other really important designation is that of a fiduciary.  It isn’t a credential anyone earns; it’s an industry standard – the highest standard – that a financial planner can choose to adhere to.  It means that the planner must at all times place the interests of the client ahead of his or her own.  Today, all CFPs are required to operate as fiduciaries.

If you choose to work with an investment advisor other than a CFP, work with one that adheres to the fiduciary standard.

The Right Compensation

If you ask a lemonade salesman for ideas on how to quench your thirst on a hot day, it’s a safe bet that he’ll recommend the juice of a certain yellow fruit.

What does this have to do with financial planning?  Everything.  There are plenty of people who hold themselves out as financial advisors who are really product salespeople. Look for an advisor who is paid for his or her time and expertise, not one who is paid on commission.

In order to find a good fee-based advisor, ask friends for referrals, or use the web sites of theNational Association of Personal Financial Advisorsor theGarrett Planning Network.  Then…

Interview more than one.  Ask specifically if they work as a fiduciary.  Find out about their fees. Most will charge based on a percentage of the assets you have them manage for you.  Others may charge a separate fee for a financial plan.

Ask to speak with some of their clients and find out how well the advisors have performed in up markets and down.

Ask the advisors how often they will be in touch with you and how often you can be in touch with them.

One low-cost option for utilizing a fee-based CFP is Veritat Advisors, an organization that offers online planning and consultations with a CFP.

The Right Values

If your faith is an important part of your life, here are three organizations that enable you to put a Christian advisor at the helm of your investments.

Kingdom Advisors.  This is a national network of financial professionals who are highly credentialed and who also have been trained in biblical principles of money.  Founder Ron Blue is one of the foremost living authorities on biblical money management. Use the Kingdom Advisors web siteto find an advisor near you.

Everyday Steward.  This is a division of Ronald Blue & Company, a financial planning organization founded but no longer owned by Ron Blue. While some advisors will only work with people who have fairly large sums to manage, Everyday Steward has lower thresholds.

Sound Mind Investing(SMI).  This is an organization I have known about it for a long time, since founder Austin Pryor is one of the leading Christian experts on investing.  However, I am just now getting to know about it in more detail, and the more I learn the more I like.

SMI’s focus is on how to build a successful investment portfolio.  For a relatively small cost, you can gain access to SMI’s research and specific recommended mutual fund-based portfolios, with three options ranging from “Just the Basics” to “Advanced Strategies.”  They make the recommendations; you implement them.

Your Role

If you choose to work with a financial advisor, you still need to be knowledgeable about investing.  You should understand essential investing concepts like asset allocation, which is the most important factor for long-term investment success, and how compound interest works.  Understanding these concepts will help you get the most from your relationship with your advisor.

Do you work with an investment advisor?  Why or why not?  If you do, what other criteria did you consider in making your choice?

Matt Bell is the author of three personal finance books published by NavPress, including the brand new "Money & Marriage: A Complete Guide for Engaged and Newly Married Couples."  He teaches a wide variety of workshops at churches, conferences, universities, and other venues throughout the country.  To learn more about his work and subscribe to his blog, go to: www.mattaboutmoney.com.