7 Occasions When You Should Definitely Hire a Financial Advisor


Laying out a few hundred dollars for a financial advisor can seem like money down the drain if everything is going smoothly. (See also: 9 Signs You Need to Fire Your Financial Planner)

Until it isn't. Life's road bumps pop up, and good and bad things that happen can lead to financial problems or opportunities that you weren't prepared for. Here are seven occasions when a financial advisor should be called in to help.

1. Ruinous Debt

We're not talking about having payments for a credit card lapse for a month, but deep debt where you're having difficulty deciding which bills to pay and which to put off each month. This is a case where you don't want to have to pay a financial advisor — whether it's a one-time fee or percentage of assets that they manage. Instead, go somewhere such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or look for local nonprofit agencies for free help. At the very least, get help setting up a budget.

2. Career Change

Hopefully, this is an opportunity to earn more money and therefore put more money aside in a retirement account. A financial advisor can help you pick a retirement account that's right for you.

Young people with the potential for increasing their assets who are starting their careers should seek a financial planner, says Eric Roberge, a fee-only certified financial planner in Boston and founder of Beyond Your Hammock. This is especially true for a single person earning at least $75,000 a year or a couple earning $150,000 because they should have more money to invest, Roberge says.

3. Sudden Wealth

An inheritance, insurance payout, lump-sum pension payment, divorce settlement, lottery winning, or any other sudden influx of new money can burn a hole in a pocket, says Mike Sena, a certified financial planner at White Street Advisors in Roswell, GA. It can be tempting to splurge a little — or a lot. Instead, seek advice on how best to use your windfall now — and for years to come.

4. Death in the Family

The death of a close relative can be a key time to get financial help. You could face tax implications or need help with estate planning, for example.

Roberge had a client who didn't seek his advice after her father died with a $600,000 annuity she inherited, and she took some money out of the annuity. She ended up having to pay a $40,000 tax bill, which Roberge says he could have helped her avoid.

5. Passing on a Family Business

Your parents and grandparents may want you to continue running the family business when they die, but you may not. This is a conversation that a financial advisor can help with early, says Charles Kochel, a wealth advisor for a fee-only Registered Investment Advisor in Arkansas. Kochel specializes in helping farmers transfer the family farm from one generation to the next.

"A major concern of a large family farm is legacy planning," he says. "The issue is usually lack of communication. Multigenerational farmers assume the next generation will want to come back home, after college, and manage the farm or the assumption is that farming may prove too costly.

"A series of conversations needs to take place, often emotional and uncomfortable," Kochel says. "A family meeting and ongoing proactive conversations help monitor the wants and needs of the entire legacy."

The family will likely evolve over the years, and a financial advisor can help systemize the process and create an ongoing conversation that will move the estate planning beyond a one-time event.

6. Big Drop in the Stock Market

If your portfolio includes stocks, a financial advisor can help you come up with a financial plan, and stick to it.

"Most people think they can handle their own investments, but when the stock market drops, they start second-guessing their plan," says Tyler Gray, a financial planner at Sage Oak Financial in Tulsa, OK.

In 2008-09, for example, "you had a lot of people who pulled out of the market at the worst possible time because they didn't have an advisor to help them stay disciplined," Gray says. "The worst part is that many of these folks never got back in the market and have missed out on a lot of growth over the last five years."

7. Growing Family

Whether you're getting married or having children, it's best to have a financial conversation ahead of time, Sena suggests. New couples merging finances or planning for a baby and all of the costs that go into raising a child should have a financial plan.

"In general, anyone who is not meeting or exceeding their life and financial goals should work with an advisor," White says. "Most of us are simply too close to our money to be objective."

For better or worse, major life events can cause people to rethink their lives and plan for the future. Planning for a financial future should be part of many major events in life.

Have you ever sought advice from a financial planner? What prompted you? Was the advice worthwhile and helpful? Please share in comments!

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Guest's picture
Rob Drury

This article should have been titled, "7 Occasions Before Which You Should Have Hired a Financial Advisor."

These scenarios most certainly represent situations where a financial professional's counsel will come in handy, but more importantly they represent situations that should have been prepared for well in advance. The article's title is akin to saying that one should hire a physician upon contracting a serious illness. One needs a financial practitioner every bit as much as one needs a family physician. A financial advisor's job is absolutely identical to the doctor's; he assesses wellness, diagnoses illness, prescribes cures, and designs wellness programs. He simply performs these functions in the financial realm rather than the medical.

Rob Drury
Executive Director,
Association of Christian Financial Advisors