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Google and other search engines let you hone in on specific topics, and many mutual fund companies and financial services firms offer a wealth of free information. A visit to their websites can offer everything from general education on a wide array of products to economic forecasts and economic insights from professional market-watchers. With a just a little effort, you can identify and follow comments from your favorite economists, investment strategists, portfolio managers, or other experts.
The terms "financial planner" and "financial advisor" typically mean the same thing, but certainly, not all financial planners or financial advisors are alike. The level of education, training, and experience that a professional has will make a big difference in the quality of the advice you receive. Some people do their own financial planning, and others look for professional assistance. An experienced financial planner can usually help improve the quality of the financial decisions you make.
Financial planners advise clients on how best to save, invest, and grow their money. They can help you tackle a specific financial goal—such as readying yourself to buy a house—or give you a macro view of your money and the interplay of your various assets. Some specialize in retirement or estate planning, while some others consult on a range of financial matters.
Asking someone whether they’ll beat the market is a pretty good litmus test for whether you want to work with them. What they should be promising is good advice across a range of issues, not just investments. And inside your portfolio, they should be asking you about how many risks you want to take, how long your time horizon is and bragging about their ability to help you achieve your goals while keeping you from losing your shirt when the economy or the markets sag.
Before hiring a planner to help with your finances, make sure to understand what you are paying for. Question the planner about his or her specific training and qualifications, fee structure, and services the professional will provide. Consider developing a list of questions when vetting a financial planner. Finally, check the disciplinary record and references for the planner to make sure you’re receiving the best quality financial guidance.
The job requires keeping current with developments in financial products, tax law, and strategies for personal financial management, particularly concerning retirement plans and estates. Success also requires sales ability, both in the acquisition of new clients and in the development of new ideas to improve the financial situation of existing clients.