When seeking financial planning advice, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start or if it would be better to go it alone. Thankfully, in the area of financial planning and financial advice, there are many different options from which to choose, and each addresses a very specific need. In general, it's usually not a good idea to go it alone. There are many nuances to both creating and maintaining a sound financial planning strategy. Finding the best financial planning firm and/or adviser often strikes most people as the most difficult step. After all, where does one start?
There are many different forms of fee-based financial planning products and services. Some are based on individual investments, while others are a comprehensive fee-based structure. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. That's not a qualification of one being better than the other, or one being "bad" and the other being "good;" it's merely a matter of which is a better fit for each individual situation. For example, an early twenty-something recent college graduate just starting off on their first full-time job would have a completely different situation than a late-middle-aged person quickly approaching their anticipated retirement date. For the former mutual funds with a front-end or back-end load, depending on the dollar value of each individual purchase would likely be a much better fit than a so-called "wrap account" which sets a single, flat fee for all assets under management. Without a more substantial amount of assets, the wrap fee (often $5,000 dollars or more per year) wouldn't make sense for the recent college graduate. However, for the middle-aged individual, with a house already paid off, several hundred thousands of dollars in retirement assets, and substantial non-retirement savings, the wrap fee would probably be a much better fit.
When it comes to your adviser, there are also several important considerations. Many registered investment advisers and financial planners prefer to have one-on-one relationships with their clients where they are the single point of contact for all their clients' needs. Others might delegate many of the day-to-day functions to other people within a larger organization. It's important to not only know what type of relationship you'd like to have with your adviser but to also know that you and your adviser are both on the same page on these matters. A good working relationship with a financial adviser can help make sure that when the unexpected happens, you already have a plan in place so you're prepared.