What Does a Financial Planner Do? Can He Bake a Cherry Pie?

If you’ll allow me the grace of an analogy we’ll have some fun and I’ll answer our most commonly asked question,

What does a financial planner do?

It’s in My Genes

I confess that I’ve never baked anything in my life, but my daughter, Corey, is a prize-winning baker. She has won Grand Champion ribbons at the county fair many times, so maybe baking is in my genes.  And, because of my daughter, the Food Network is playing at my house much of the time, so perhaps I’ve learned a thing or two.

But without any help from Corey (or my wife, who is also a superb baker), I propose to create a cherry pie.

Let’s Bake!

First, I’ll identify the ingredients I think should go into my cherry pie:

Milk

Cherries

Sugar

Salt

Flour

I’m going to put them all together in a big bowl, stir it up, pour it into a pie tin and stick it in the oven for an hour and 15 minutes at, oh, how about 415 degrees?

Will I have a cherry pie? No! I’ll have a big mess!

But as a Financial Planner, I hear this sort of thing all the time. “Oh, I’ll take a mutual fund here, an annuity there, and a will I got at Staples, and mix them all up. I don’t have much experience in any of these areas, but I’ll have a basic financial plan that works, Right?”

Well, I submit that you’ll probably have a bigger mess than I have with my pie. And the consequences to you and your family will be much worse. This is an area of life where expertise is truly needed.

What Does A Financial Planner Do?

When you meet with financial planners, they are there to help you. They take everything into consideration: what is your current situation? What money do you have, and what will you have in retirement? What do you want to have? When are you going to retire? What type of life are you looking for, and what is the best way to get there? These professionals know how many things come into play in matters of money, things that not everyone is familiar with.

Consider another example: if you were going to build a house, would you just go and get some wood and bricks and a spot of land and try to build a house by yourself? No! You would (hopefully) look to someone for help who knows how things work, what to do, and how to do it. You wouldn’t want to make any mistakes, because this is your house we’re talking about. You’re going to live there. That’s what a financial planner does: take your unique situation into consideration and find the best option for you. They want to get you into the best position possible, so you can have the life you want.

Who Can I Trust?

Dear FedNav,

My broker says it’s time to get back into the market. The guy on the radio says we haven’t seen the worst yet. My neighbor thinks it’s a great time to buy. My brother-in-law took all his money out of the market. I don’t know who to listen to!  

Scared in Maryland

Dear Scared,

You need to find a financial advising professional that you can trust. We suggest that you take the time to ask your friends, neighbors, and relatives about their relationships with financial professionals. If your friends like them, chances are you will as well. In addition to the personal recommendation, you’ll want to consider their credentials. But remember, however impressive their credentials are, that doesn’t mean you will get along or that they will have expertise in your specific areas of financial concern.

Getting The Pie Right

When considering a financial planner to discuss your future with, be sure to do some homework on them. Just like there is more to you than your money, there is more to a planner than the company name. Talk to people with experience in the matter, and find a planner with the right abilities and goals. Once you arrange your interview, ask as many questions as it takes to come out with no doubt that you are doing the right thing. (If you need some ideas for what to ask, check out our article, The Art of Choosing a Financial Planner) Then, you’ll be able to sit down with a slice of cherry pie, not a block of cherry-flavored flour.

For even more reading on what we can do with you, check out our book we wrote for Federal Employees! http://federalnavigators.com/navigatingyourfederalretirementbenefits/