You’ve got a fantastic job, some money in the bank, and life is great. You don’t need a financial planner, right? Actually, there are many reasons why you should be contacting a financial planner when life is smooth sailing—not when you think you need one to help you handle a financial windfall.
If you don’t understand exactly what a financial planner can do for you, you’re not alone. Only 28 percent of Americans have met with one or have used an online financial planning tool, according to a survey of 1000 households by the Consumer Federation of America [PDF]. But it pays to enlist the help of a professional. A study by HSBC [PDF] found that those with financial plans have 552 percent more assets than those who don’t.
Still not convinced? Here are a few scenarios in which a financial advisor can help you.
1. YOU'RE CONSIDERING A BIG CHANGE.
A financial planner can help when you’re anticipating a big life change such as having a first child or getting married, says Kelley Long, a financial planner with Financial Finesse, a provider of workplace financial wellness programs. “A financial planner would not only help you evaluate the effect of the additional costs of childcare and saving for college, but could also share strategies for prioritizing, such as encouraging you to stay on track with your retirement savings before saving for college, then assist you with the best ways to save toward these goals," she says.
For example, the advisor could weigh the pros and cons of staying home versus childcare in terms of financials, and see if you could afford to stay home with your new baby—and see how long you could swing it.
2. YOU'VE RECEIVED AN INHERITANCE.
The planner would help clarify whether the money should be used to pay down debt, to increase lifestyle expenses such as buying a larger home, or to invest, Long says. If you decide to invest, the planner would help evaluate your risk tolerance and would decide how to invest the money amongst different asset classes, such as U.S. or international stocks. “One great value that planners have with investing is reminding you to stick to your plans when there are market events,” Long says. “It’s easy to panic when we see the value of our accounts drop due to a stock market downturn; a financial planner will talk you off the ledge by reminding you that you are a long-term investor, and the dips are part of the ride.”
3. YOU WANT TO REFINANCE.
When the mortgage rates drop and you have a fixed rate, financial planners will look at your situation and figure out if this is a good time for you to refinance, says Kacie Swartz, a certified financial planner in Austin, Texas. “Possibly even more so than when a person experiences a crisis, people who are doing well need a financial advisor to help them navigate opportunity,” Swartz says. She says she would walk you through the pros and cons of re-financing to figure out the best mortgage situation for your needs.
4. YOU WANT TO TREAT YOURSELF.
Sometimes, people don’t realize that they have enough cash to start going on more vacations, to start having more fun. Bobbie Dow Munroe, a certified financial planner in Havana, Florida, says that once in a while, once he goes over all of a client’s finances, he’s able to tell the client that there’s no reason not to start spending a certain amount on special desires, and that doing so will not affect their financial security. “If you are doing everything you should do to fund your goals, the remaining cash is gravy,” Munroe says. “If finances allow, enjoy life along the way, as no one is guaranteed tomorrow.”