I’m a big proponent of do-it-yourself investing. In the age of index funds, many investors can manage their own investments at very low cost.
And fees you pay to a financial advisor could be used to invest and grow your nest egg.
But that’s not to say that I believe that no one should have a financial advisor. There are many situations where it can be beneficial to hire a financial advisor.
Here are four scenarios where I think that hiring a financial advisor can make sense.
1. You need a second opinion on your finances
While the general process of investment management with index funds is simple, you need to figure out many little details to fully optimize your returns.
Small improvements, especially repeated over time on large portfolios, can add up to thousands of extra dollars in your portfolio.
For this reason, it can be helpful for many investors, including do-it-yourself investors, to hire a financial advisor to look over their investments and finances.
It’s kind of like getting an accountant to look over your tax returns. Even if you think you found every possible tax deduction on your return, an experienced accountant may find additional opportunities to reduce your tax burden.
I’ll admit that I am actually stubborn regarding hiring a financial advisor to take a look at my finances as a second opinion. It wouldn’t surprise me that if I were to hire a financial advisor to look over my finances, they would potentially find areas of improvement that could pay for the financial advisor’s fees.
A financial advisor who charges an hourly fee would be the ideal person for this type of one-off portfolio checkup. Some advisors who ordinarily charge a percentage of assets under management may also offer portfolio reviews for a fixed fee.
2. You need to build your first financial plan
Physicians are busy people, and very little time is spent in medical school and residency on investing and personal finance.
As a result, many physicians feel unprepared to manage their money once they finally start getting attending paychecks.
They ask themselves: How should I budget my money? How should I manage my student loans? How much do I need to save for retirement? What about saving for a down payment on a house or my kid’s college educations?
All of these questions can overwhelm many new physicians. Of course, there are books, websites, Facebook groups, and even an online course where you can learn all of the answers to these questions and build a financial plan.
However, even if all of the information to manage their money is publicly available, many new physicians worry that they “might be doing it wrong.”
This is where hiring a financial advisor to sit down with you, go over your goals, and build a financial plan can make a lot of sense. The financial advisor essentially gives the crash course in personal finance that they should have gotten in medical school or residency, and builds them a customized financial plan.
After this initial financial plan is created, the physician can then manage their own money, using the do-it-yourself resources available, or periodically checking back in with the financial advisor to get questions answered.
3. You don’t have the self-control to stay the course in down markets
One of the essential components of investment success is the ability to stay the course and stick with your investment plan through bear markets.
It is easy to invest when the stock market is rising. It is much harder when the stock market is falling.
Stock markets rarely drop without a narrative that explains why they are falling and why they could continue to fall.
Staying the course and sticking with your investments forces you to believe in the long-term strength of the stock market, in spite of the negative headlines.
For some investors, they cannot stomach the ups and downs of the stock market. While one option in this scenario is to simply hold fewer stocks and more bonds to reduce the volatility of your portfolio, another option is to hire a financial advisor to be a calming voice of reason during these bear markets.
Good financial advisors can reassure you and encourage you to stick with your investment plan when the stock market is falling. Since it’s not their money that is being lost, they can be more rational and less emotional when giving you financial advice in times of market stress.
If you choose to hire a financial advisor for this purpose, seek out a good financial advisor at a low price. You should not be paying a financial advisor 1% of your portfolio each year to reassure you not to sell your stocks during a bear market.
4. Your financial situation is too complicated to do-it-yourself
While there is so much financial information on blogs and in books, it turns out that most of us only scratch the surface of financial education. We try to write on topics that are applicable to a wider audience.
However, every individual has a unique financial situation. A rule of thumb or recommendation that might work for the vast majority of investors may be incorrect for your specific financial situation.
And some physicians have very complicated financial lives that might be too difficult to do-it-yourself.
The tax analogy works well here again. Most workers can easily use Turbotax or H&R Block software to do their own taxes each year and save money by not paying an accountant. However, some individuals have more complicated tax situations that cannot easily be handled by tax software or internet research. These individuals should hire an accountant to do their taxes.
Similarly, if you have a unique or complicated financial situation, it may make sense to hire a financial advisor.
Many investors, including experienced investors, could potentially benefit from the services of a financial advisor. It may not necessarily be the long-term relationship that most people think about when hiring a financial advisor. But even experienced do-it-yourself investors may be making errors and suboptimally managing their finances, and a second opinion from an experienced financial advisor could identify improvements that are worth more than the advisor’s fees.
What do you think? What are some other reasons to hire a financial advisor?
“Wall Street Physician,” a former Wall Street derivatives trader, is a physician who blogs at his self-titled site, the Wall Street Physician.
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