More than two-thirds of near retirees haven’t met with a financial planner, and that could be hurting their confidence when it comes to having enough money for retirement.
So finds a new survey of over 2,000 Americans age 55 or older by Retirable, a financial planning company.
Retirable’s survey took the temperature of the near retirees to get a sense of how they plan to spend their retirements and how ready they feel financially. Over 60% of respondents do not feel as though they have enough money to last them through retirement (or are unsure if they do), while only 27% of respondents said they’re confident their savings will last.
“Once you’re close to pulling the plug on work and electing Social Security and electing a pension and investing money for income instead of growth, it’s good to have a professional in that space,” says Tyler End, a certified financial planner (CFP) and Retirable’s CEO.
Obviously, Retirable has skin in the game—it makes money by helping people plan their retirement. But the results are in line with many other surveys that ask Americans about financial planning: Most of us don’t have a plan at all.
You don’t necessarily need to pay someone to help you with your finances. However, financial advisers can help you make sense of complex money questions, like tax and retirement planning, appropriately diversifying your investment mix, when to elect Social Security, and so on.
Here’s what to know if you’re considering hiring a financial adviser.
How to find the right financial adviser
One reason so many Americans don’t have a plan: It can be overwhelming, and it’s difficult to know who to trust. Advisers can be helpful by cutting through the noise and giving you a holistic overview of your finances, as well as a plan for reaching any goals you might have (saving for a child, a home, retirement, etc.).
Many advisers say they also act, more or less, as therapists for their clients, talking them through market swings and helping them stay on track without their emotions getting in the way.
If that sounds helpful, then you’ll want to look for the certified financial planner designation. Plenty of people call themselves financial advisers, but a CFP distinction means the professional is a fiduciary, and must act in your best interest—not just recommend a financial product because he or she gets a commission. You can verify a CFP’s credentials here. You’ll want to ensure you’re meeting with a fiduciary before you even take a meeting—otherwise, you might be sold on products that will help only the adviser’s bottom line, not yours.
And you don’t have to go with the first planner you find. Most should offer some sort of “discovery” meeting to learn about you and your goals—take a few and test out the waters.
“A good planning discussion should have a discovery period where the planner learns about you and your family—what makes you tick and why,” says Nicole Gopoian Wirick, a Michigan-based CFP. “The numbers are important, and they come in time, but the qualitative is equally important—the why behind the numbers.”
Here are some questions planners recommended to Fortune to ask for a sense of how a CFP can help you:
- What does your financial plan include? (Legal advice, tax advice, etc.)
- Can you describe your financial planning process?
- How do you help your clients? (You can also ask how they can help you achieve a certain goal, like debt payoff or planning for retirement.)
- What tools will you use to help me determine my goals clearly?
- What will you need from me throughout this process?
- What is your responsiveness? How long will it take you to email me back?
- How do you get paid?
- What areas could you improve on within my current financial plan?
- What blind spots do you currently see with my finances?
- How often will we meet to review and update the plan?
Of course, there will be other questions, depending on your goals and what’s important to you. But those can get you started and give guidance on whether the CFP you’re meeting with is the right fit. If something doesn’t feel right during the initial meeting, then move on.
Working with a CFP often isn’t a one-and-done experience. Ideally, you will check in with them periodically to get updates on your progress and reassess your plan if your goals have changed.
“The best financial plans are those that are considered to be living documents that are updated regularly as life changes,” says Wirick. “These plans challenge people to examine their hopes, dreams, and fears, and identify what money means to them and why.”
Once you select an adviser, take some time to think through your financial goals. When you meet, be honest about everything. Some examples:
- Retiring by a certain age
- Saving for a child’s college education
- Saving for a home
- Purchasing a vacation home
- Paying off debt
- Diversifying investments outside of retirement
- Tax planning
- Help with wills and other succession planning (such as for a small business)
Retirable’s survey finds most people just want to live a normal life in retirement—most don’t want to take extravagant trips around the globe. They’d rather spend time on hobbies and with their grandkids. A financial planner can help make that happen.
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