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Credit Traps for the Unwary

Credit Traps for the Unwary

It’s hard to imagine functioning in today’s society without access to credit. However, you need to be careful not to fall victim to some of the pitfalls associated with it.

Revolving credit can make it hard for you to pay off debt

Credit cards allow you to spend money you don’t currently have, and to repay what you’ve spent over time instead of all at once. When you use a card, the balance you owe increases, and your remaining available credit decreases. As you make your payments to reduce your outstanding balance, your available credit once again increases. Thus, your credit revolves around for you to use again.

Since you can spend more than you currently have, you can easily spend more than you can afford. As your balance increases, your minimum monthly payments also increase, and soon you’ll find yourself in over your head–especially if interest rates and a variety of fees are high.

Interest and fees can add to the cost

Credit card debt generally carries a high interest rate. Your minimum monthly payment of the total balance due, may cover little more than the monthly interest charge. Consequently, your minimum payment may only minimally decrease what you already owe. If possible, increase your monthly payment above the minimum required. The higher you can make the payment, the faster you will pay off the debt.

When opening a new account, always check to see how the finance charge is calculated. Here are some of the methods used:

  • Adjusted balance method: Balance due at the beginning of the billing cycle less any payments made during the cycle; excludes new purchases made during the cycle
  • Previous balance method: Balance due at the beginning of the billing cycle
  • Average daily balance method: Total of the balances due each day in the billing cycle divided by the number of days in the cycle; payments made are subtracted as posted to determine daily balances; new purchases may or may not be added in
  • Two-cycle average daily balance method: Same as the average daily balance method, but over two consecutive billing cycles (as of February, 2010, this method is prohibited)

The amount of your finance charge can vary widely from method to method

Because finance charges result in higher interest charges, creditors favor either of the last two methods mentioned above. In an effort to attract your business, many lenders offer very low introductory rates–3.9 percent annually or less. However, these rates generally last no more than three to six months and increase to the current market rate thereafter. Moreover, the introductory rates may apply only to balances you transfer from other cards. They may not apply to new purchases and rarely if ever to cash advances. Finally, if your monthly payment is late, the interest rate may be automatically raised to the current market rate–and sometimes beyond.

If you have two different interest rates on one account, the creditor will post the payments toward the lower interest rate balance, not the higher. To avoid this, use two different cards if possible–one for purchases you will pay off when the bill comes and the second, lower-rate card if you have to carry a balance.

Incurred feeds

You may also incur a wide variety of fees. Creditors may charge you an annual fee to maintain the account. These fees can range from $25 to $50 or more each year. They may also charge fees to transfer balances from other cards. Generally, these processing fees equal 2 to 4 percent of the amount you transfer. Many banks levy a similar surcharge on transactions involving conversions from foreign currencies. If you’re late with your monthly payment, you may be charged a late payment fee. It can be as much as $39 each month you’re overdue. If your account balance rises above your approved credit limit, you will be assessed a monthly overlimit fee until you bring the total balance due under the limit you’re allowed.

When these fees add up, you may find that making your minimum monthly payment won’t bring your balances down. In fact, your balance will increase if your monthly payment isn’t greater than the accumulated interest and fees due. This is because these unpaid charges become a part of the principal you owe. Moreover, your account may then be considered past due and reported as such to the credit bureaus.

If you surf your debt, beware the wake

You may periodically transfer your balance from one introductory offer to the next. This is known as surfing. Done successfully, surfing lets you avoid the higher interest charges that your debt would incur when the original card offer expires. By the time the interest rate on the original card increases, you’ve surfed over to a new offer at another low rate.

Although surfing helps keep your interest charges to a minimum, it’s not without pitfalls. You may be offered a low rate only on balance transfers; if new purchases and cash advances are billed at a higher interest rate, these charges could offset the savings you would otherwise enjoy. Moreover, as creditors move to counteract the surfing trend, many stipulate that if you transfer balances to another card within a certain time after opening your account, you’ll be retroactively charged a higher rate of interest on the amount you transfer. Thus, surfing before this time period is up eliminates the savings.

Finally, if you transfer balances to a new card, close the original account as soon as you’ve paid it off. Write the creditor a letter asking it to inform the credit bureaus that the account was closed at your request. This prevents new potential creditors from denying you credit when they see too many open lines of credit, and it also deters anyone else from fraudulently using an inactive account.

Protect yourself against credit fraud and identity theft

Credit fraud (the illegal use of your accounts) and identity theft (opening new credit using information about you) are two of the fastest-growing crimes today. In many cases, you may not know you’ve been victimized until it’s too late. Here are some indicators of these crimes:

  • A creditor informs you that it received an application in your name
  • You’ve been approved for or denied credit you didn’t apply for
  • You no longer get your credit card statements in the mail
  • Your credit card statements include purchases or cash advances you never made

To minimize the chances of being victimized, take precautions to safeguard your credit account information. Don’t carry credit cards you don’t use often. Be sure to sign your cards, and never sign a blank charge slip. When you use the card, try to keep it within your sight. Save your receipts, and obtain and destroy any carbons. Don’t allow a sales clerk to write your credit card number on a check “for identification.” Finally, never give out your account number over the telephone unless you initiated the call and know the organization to be reputable.

If you are thinking of getting a credit card, or trying to pay off an old one, we can help

Sometimes we can find ourselves a little in over our heads. Set up a complimentary consultation with one of our advisors today. We are more than happy to discuss your options with you and help decide what is best for you right now, and your future.

Disclosure:The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. Sterling Group United recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal, or other professional if you have questions.

Teaching Your Child about Money

Teaching Your Child about Money

Ask your five-year old where money comes from, and the answer you’ll probably get is “From a machine!” Even though children don’t always understand where money really comes from, they realize at a young age that they can use it to buy the things they want. So as soon as your child becomes interested in money, start teaching him or her how to handle it wisely. The simple lessons you teach today will give your child a solid foundation for making a lifetime of financial decisions.

Lesson 1: Learning to handle an allowance

An allowance is often a child’s first brush with financial independence. With allowance money in hand, your child can begin saving and budgeting for the things he or she wants.

It’s up to you to decide how much to give your child based on your values and family budget, but a rule of thumb used by many parents is to give a child 50 cents or 1 dollar for every year of age. To come up with the right amount, you might also want to consider what your child will need to pay for out of his or her allowance, and how much of it will go into savings.

Some parents ask their child to earn an allowance by doing chores around the house, while others give their child an allowance with no strings attached. If you’re not sure which approach is better, you might want to compromise. Pay your child a small allowance, and then give him or her the chance to earn extra money by doing chores that fall outside of his or her normal household responsibilities.

If you decide to give your child an allowance, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Set some parameters. Sit down and talk to your child about the types of purchases you expect him or her to make, and how much of the allowance should go towards savings.
  • Stick to a regular schedule. Give your child the same amount of money on the same day each week.
  • Consider giving an allowance “raise” to reward your child for handling his or her allowance well.

Lesson 2: Opening a bank account

Taking your child to the bank to open an account is a simple way to introduce the concept of saving money. Your child will learn how savings accounts work, and will enjoy trips to the bank to make deposits.

Many banks have programs that provide activities and incentives designed to help children learn financial basics. Here are some other ways you can help your child develop good savings habits:

  • Help your child understand how interest compounds by showing him or her how much “free money” has been earned on deposits.
  • Offer to match whatever your child saves towards a long-term goal.
  • Let your child take a few dollars out of the account occasionally. Young children who see money going into the account but never coming out may quickly lose interest in saving.

Lesson 3: Setting and saving for financial goals

When your children get money from relatives, you want them to save it for college, but they’d rather spend it now. Let’s face it: children don’t always see the value of putting money away for the future. So how can you get your child excited about setting and saving for financial goals? Here are a few ideas:

  • Let your child set his or her own goals (within reason). This will give your child some incentive to save.
  • Encourage your child to divide his or her money up. For instance, your child might want to save some of it towards a long-term goal, share some of it with a charity, and spend some of it right away.
  • Write down each goal, and the amount that must be saved each day, week, or month to reach it. This will help your child learn the difference between short-term and long-term goals.
  • Tape a picture of an item your child wants to a goal chart, bank, or jar. This helps a young child make the connection between setting a goal and saving for it.

Finally, don’t expect a young child to set long-term goals. Young children may lose interest in goals that take longer than a week or two to reach. And if your child fails to reach a goal, chalk it up to experience. Over time, your child will learn to become a more disciplined saver.

Lesson 4: Becoming a smart consumer

Commercials. Peer pressure. The mall. Children are constantly tempted to spend money but aren’t born with the ability to spend it wisely. Your child needs guidance from you to make good buying decisions. Here are a few things you can do to help your child become a smart consumer:

  • Set aside one day a month to take your child shopping. This will encourage your child to save up for something he or she really wants rather than buying something on impulse.
  • Just say no. You can teach your child to think carefully about purchases by explaining that you will not buy him or her something every time you go shopping. Instead, suggest that your child try items out in the store, then put them on a birthday or holiday wish list.
  • Show your child how to compare items based on price and quality. For instance, when you go grocery shopping, teach him or her to find the prices on the items or on the shelves, and explain why you’re choosing to buy one brand rather than another.
  • Let your child make mistakes. If the toy your child insists on buying breaks, or turns out to be less fun than it looked on the commercials, eventually your child will learn to make good choices even when you’re not there to give advice.

Make investing a family affair

Let our financial advisors help you make the best financial decisions for you and your family. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation!

The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. Sterling Group United recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal, or other professional if you have questions.

Debt Consolidation

Debt Consolidation

If you have a lot of debt, you’re not alone. Today, more and more Americans are burdened with credit card and loan payments. Whether you are trying to improve your money management, having difficulty making ends meet, want to lower your monthly loan payments, or just can’t seem to keep up with all of your credit card bills, you may be looking for a way to make debt repayment easier. Debt consolidation may be the answer.

What is debt consolidation?

Debt consolidation is when you roll all of your smaller individual loans into one large loan. This is usually with a longer term and a lower interest rate. This allows you to write one check for a loan payment instead of many, while lowering your total monthly payments.

How do you consolidate your debts?

There are many ways to consolidate your debts. One way is to transfer them to a credit card with a lower interest rate. Most credit card companies allow you to transfer balances by providing them with information, such as the issuing bank, account number, and approximate balance. Or, your credit card company may send you convenience checks that you can use to pay off your old balances. Keep in mind, however, that there is usually a fee for this type of transaction, and the lower rate may last only for a certain period of time (e.g., six months).

Another option is to obtain a home equity loan. Most banks and mortgage companies offer home equity loans. You’ll need to fill out an application and demonstrate to the lender that you’ll be able to make regular monthly payments. Your home will then be appraised to determine the amount of your equity. Typically, you can borrow an amount equal to 80 percent of the value of the equity in your home. Interest rates and terms for home equity loans vary, so you should shop around and compare lenders.

Some lenders offer loans specifically designed for debt consolidation. Again, you’ll need to fill out an application and demonstrate to the lender that you’ll be able to make regular monthly payments. Keep in mind that these loans usually come with higher interest rates than home equity loans. Depending on the amount you borrow, may require collateral on the loan (e.g., your car or bank account).

Advantages of debt consolidation

  • The monthly payment on a consolidation loan is usually substantially lower than the combined payments of smaller loans
  • Consolidation loans usually offer lower interest rates
  • Consolidation makes bill paying easier since you have only one monthly payment, instead of many

Disadvantages of debt consolidation

  • If you use a home equity loan to consolidate your debts, the loan is secured by a lien on your home. As a result, the lender can foreclose on your home if you default on the loan.
  • If the term of your consolidation loan is longer than the terms of your smaller existing loans, you may end up paying more total interest even if the rate is lower. So you won’t actually be saving any money over time, even though your monthly payments will be less.
  • If you use a longer-term loan to consolidate your debts, it will take you longer to pay off your debt.

Should you consolidate your debts?

For debt consolidation to be worthwhile, the monthly payment on your consolidation loan should be less than the sum of the monthly payments on your individual loans. If this isn’t the case, consolidation may not be your best option. Moreover, the interest rate on your consolidation loan should be lower than the average of the interest rates on your individual loans. This allows you not only to save money but also to lower your monthly payment.

You don’t have to go through this alone

If you’re finding yourself in a tough financial situation, and are debating whether to consolidate your debt, let our financial advisors help. Set up a complimentary consultation today and we can help you make the best decision for you and your financial goals.

The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. Sterling Group United recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal, or other professional if you have questions.

Sudden Wealth

Sudden Wealth

    What would you do with an extra $10,000? Maybe you’d pay off some debt, get rid of some college loans, or take a much-needed vacation. What if you suddenly had an extra million or 10 million or more? Whether you picked the right six numbers in your state’s lottery or your dear Aunt Sally left you her condo in Boca Raton, you have some issues to deal with. You’ll need to evaluate your new financial position and consider how your sudden wealth will affect your financial goals.

Evaluate your new financial position

Just how wealthy are you? You’ll want to figure that out before you make any major life decisions (e.g., to retire). Your first impulse may be to go out and buy things, but that may not be in your best interest. Even if you’re used to handling your own finances, now’s the time to watch your spending habits carefully. Sudden wealth can turn even the most cautious person into an impulse buyer. Of course, you’ll want your current wealth to last, so you’ll need to consider your future needs, not just your current desires. Answering these questions may help you evaluate your short- and long-term needs and goals:
  • Do you have outstanding debt that you’d like to pay off?
  • Do you need more current income?
  • Do you plan to pay for your children’s education?
  • Do you need to bolster your retirement savings?
  • Are you planning to buy a first or second home?
  • Are you considering giving to loved ones or a favorite charity?
  • Are there ways to minimize any upcoming income and estate taxes?
Note: Experts are available to help you with all of your planning needs. If you don’t already have a financial planner, insurance agent, accountant, or attorney, now would be a good time to find professionals to guide you through this new experience.

Impact on investing

What will you do with your new assets? Consider these questions:
  • Do you have enough money to pay your bills and your taxes?
  • How might investing increase or decrease your taxes?
  • Do you have assets that you could quickly sell if you needed cash in an emergency?
  • Are your investments growing quickly enough to keep up with or beat inflation?
  • Will you have enough money to meet your retirement needs and other long-term goals?
  • How much risk can you tolerate when investing?
  • How diversified are your investments?
The answers to these questions may help you formulate a new investment plan. Remember, though, there’s no rush. You can put your funds in an accessible interest-bearing account such as a savings account, money market account, or short-term certificate of deposit until you have time to plan and think things through. You may wish to meet with an investment advisor for help with these decisions. Once you’ve taken care of these basics, set aside some money to treat yourself to something you wouldn’t have bought or done before–it’s OK to have fun with some of your new money!

Impact on insurance

It’s sad to say, but being wealthy may make you more vulnerable to lawsuits. Although you may be able to pay for any damage (to yourself or others) that you cause, you may want to re-evaluate your current insurance policies and consider purchasing an umbrella liability policy. If you plan on buying expensive items such as jewelry or artwork, you may need more property/casualty insurance to cover these items in case of loss or theft. Finally, it may be the right time to re-examine your life insurance needs. More life insurance may be necessary to cover your estate tax bill so your beneficiaries receive more of your estate after taxes.

Impact on estate planning

Now that your wealth has increased, it’s time to re-evaluate your estate plan. Estate planning involves conserving your money and putting it to work so that it best fulfills your goals. It also means minimizing your taxes and creating financial security for your family. Is your will up to date? A will is the document that determines how your worldly possessions will be distributed after your death. You’ll want to make sure that your current will accurately reflects your wishes. If your newfound wealth is significant, you should meet with your attorney as soon as possible. You may want to make a new will and destroy the old one instead of simply making changes by adding a codicil. Carefully consider whether the beneficiaries of your estate are capable of managing the inheritance on their own. For instance, if you have minor children, you should consider setting up a trust to protect their interests and control the age at which they receive their funds. It’s probably also a good idea to consult a tax attorney or financial professional to look into the amount of federal estate tax and state death taxes that your estate may have to pay upon your death. If your estate will be worth more than the applicable exclusion amount ($3.5 million in 2009), consider looking at ways to minimize estate taxes.

Giving it all away–or maybe just some of it

Is gift giving part of your overall plan? You may want to give gifts of cash or property to your loved ones or to your favorite charities. It’s a good idea to wait until you’ve come up with a financial plan before giving or lending money to anyone, even family members. If you decide to give or lend any money, put everything in writing. This will protect your rights and avoid hurt feelings down the road. In particular, keep in mind that:
  • If you forgive a debt owed by a family member, you may owe gift tax on the transaction
  • You can make individual gifts of up to $13,000 each calendar year without incurring any gift tax liability ($26,000 if you are married, and you and your spouse can split the gift)
  • If you pay the school directly, you can give an unlimited amount to pay for someone’s education without having to pay gift tax (you can do the same with medical bills)
  • If you make a gift to charity during your lifetime, you may be able to deduct the amount of the gift on your income tax return, within certain limits, based on your adjusted gross income
Note: Because the tax implications are complex, you should consult a tax professional for more information before making sizable gifts.

Let the professionals help you make the best financial decision.

If you find yourself with sudden increase in wealth, contact us today and set up a complimentary consultation. Let the financial experts at Sterling Group help you decide what is best for your unique situation and help you achieve your financial goals.
Asset Allocation

Asset Allocation

 

Asset allocation is a common strategy that you can use to construct an investment portfolio. Asset allocation isn’t about picking individual securities. Instead, you focus on broad categories of investments, mixing them together in the right proportion to match your financial goals, the amount of time you have to invest, and your tolerance for risk.

The basics of asset allocation

The idea behind asset allocation is that because not all investments are alike, you can balance risk and return in your portfolio by spreading your investment dollars among different types of assets, such as stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives. It doesn’t guarantee a profit or ensure against a loss, of course, but it can help you manage the level and type of risk you face.

Different types of assets carry different levels of risk and potential for return, and typically don’t respond to market forces in the same way at the same time. For instance, when the return of one asset type is declining, the return of another may be growing (though there are no guarantees). If you diversify by owning a variety of assets, a downturn in a single holding won’t necessarily spell disaster for your entire portfolio.

Using asset allocation, you identify the asset classes that are appropriate for you and decide the percentage of your investment dollars that should be allocated to each class (e.g., 70 percent to stocks, 20 percent to bonds, 10 percent to cash alternatives).

The three major classes of assets

Here’s a look at the three major classes of assets you’ll generally be considering when you use asset allocation.

Stocks: Although past performance is no guarantee of future results, stocks have historically provided a higher average annual rate of return than other investments, including bonds and cash alternatives. However, stocks are generally more volatile than bonds or cash alternatives. Investing in stocks may be appropriate if your investment goals are long-term.

Bonds: Historically less volatile than stocks, bonds do not provide as much opportunity for growth as stocks do. They are sensitive to interest rate changes; when interest rates rise, bond values tend to fall, and when interest rates fall, bond values tend to rise. Because bonds offer fixed interest payments at regular intervals, they may be appropriate if you want regular income from your investments.

Cash alternatives: Cash alternatives (or short-term instruments) offer a lower potential for growth than other types of assets but are the least volatile. They are subject to inflation risk, the chance that returns won’t outpace rising prices. They provide easier access to funds than longer-term investments, and may be appropriate for investment goals that are short-term.

Not only can you diversify across asset classes by purchasing stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives, you can also diversify within a single asset class. For example, when investing in stocks, you can choose to invest in large companies that tend to be less risky than small companies. Or, you could choose to divide your investment dollars according to investment style, investing for growth or for value. Though the investment possibilities are limitless, your objective is always the same: to diversify by choosing complementary investments that balance risk and reward within your portfolio.

Decide how to divide your assets

Your objective in using asset allocation is to construct a portfolio that can provide you with the return on your investment you want without exposing you to more risk than you feel comfortable with. How long you have to invest is important, too, because the longer you have to invest, the more time you have to ride out market ups and downs.

When you’re trying to construct a portfolio, you can use worksheets or interactive tools that help identify your investment objectives, your risk tolerance level, and your investment time horizon. These tools may also suggest model or sample allocations that strike a balance between risk and return, based on the information you provide.

For instance, if your investment goal is to save for your retirement over the next 20 years and you can tolerate a relatively high degree of market volatility, a model allocation might suggest that you put a large percentage of your investment dollars in stocks, and allocate a smaller percentage to bonds and cash alternatives. Of course, models are intended to serve only as general guides. You may want to work with a financial professional who can help you determine the right allocation for your individual circumstances.

Build your portfolio

The next step is to choose investments for your portfolio that match your asset allocation strategy. If, like many other investors, you don’t have the time, expertise, or capital to build a diversified portfolio of individual securities on your own, you may want to invest in mutual funds.

Mutual funds offer instant diversification within an asset class, and in many cases, the benefits of professional money management. Investments in each fund are chosen according to a specific objective, making it easier to identify a fund or a group of funds that meet your needs. For instance, some of the common terms you’ll see used to describe fund objectives are capital preservation, income (or current income), income and growth (or balanced), growth, and aggressive growth. As with any investment in a mutual fund, you should consider your time frame, risk tolerance, and investing objectives.

Note: Before investing in a mutual fund, carefully consider its investment objectives, risks, fees, and expenses, which can be found in the prospectus available from the fund. Read the prospectus carefully before investing.

Pay attention to your portfolio

Once you’ve chosen your initial allocation, revisit your portfolio at least once a year (or more often if markets are experiencing greater short-term fluctuations). One reason to do this is to rebalance your portfolio. Because of market fluctuations, your portfolio may no longer reflect the initial allocation balance you chose. For instance, if the stock market has been performing well, eventually you’ll end up with a higher percentage of your investment dollars in stocks than you initially intended. To rebalance, you may want to shift funds from one asset class to another.

In some cases you may want to rethink your entire allocation strategy. If you’re no longer comfortable with the same level of risk, your financial goals have changed, or you’re getting close to the time when you’ll need the money, you may need to change your asset mix.

Let the experts help you build your portfolio 

When the time comes to think about asset allocation, don’t forget you have a team to help you. With outstanding support and wide range of  tools and investment options, Sterling Group has got you covered. Call us today for a complimentary review.

Working with a Financial Advisor

Working with a Financial Advisor


The world of 50 years ago was a lot different than it is today. An individual often worked at the same job all his or her adult life, lived in the same house, and stayed married to the same spouse. In those days, too, one spouse could support a family, paying for college ordinarily didn’t require taking out a second mortgage, and people could look forward to retiring on Social Security and possibly a company pension.

Today, your hopes and dreams are no different. Like most people, you probably want to buy a home, put your children through college, and retire with a comfortable income. But the world has become a more complex place, especially when it comes to your finances. You may already be working with financial professionals–an accountant or estate planner, for example–each of whom advises you in a specific area. But if you would like a comprehensive financial plan to help you secure your future, you may benefit from the expertise of a financial advisor.

Services a financial advisor may provide

Even if you feel competent enough to develop a plan of your own, a financial advisor can act as a sounding board for your ideas and help you focus on your goals, using his or her broad knowledge of areas such as estate planning and investments. Specifically, a financial advisor may help you:

  • Set financial goals
  • Determine the state of your current financial affairs by reviewing your income, assets, and liabilities, evaluating your insurance coverage and your investment portfolio, assessing your tax obligations, and examining your estate plan
  • Develop a plan to help meet your financial goals which addresses your current financial weaknesses and builds on your financial strengths
  • Make recommendations about specific products and services (many advisors are qualified to sell a range of financial products)
  • Monitor your plan and periodically evaluate its progress
  • Adjust your plan to help meet your changing financial goals and to accommodate changing investment markets or tax laws

Some misconceptions about financial advisors

Maybe you have reservations about consulting a financial advisor because you’re uncertain about what to expect. Here are some common misconceptions about financial advisors, and the truth behind them:

  • Most people don’t need financial advisors–While it’s true that you may have the knowledge and ability to manage your own finances, the financial world grows more intricate every day. A qualified financial advisor has the expertise to help you navigate a steady path towards your financial goals.
  • All financial advisors are the same–Financial advisors are not covered by uniform state or federal regulations, so there can be a considerable disparity in their qualifications and business practices. Some may specialize in one area such as investment planning, while others may sell a specific range of products, such as insurance. A qualified financial advisor generally looks at your finances as an interrelated whole, and can help you with many of your financial needs.
  • Financial advisors serve only the wealthy–Some advisors do only take on clients with a minimum amount of assets to invest. Many, however, only require that their clients have at least some discretionary income.
  • Financial advisors are only interested in comprehensive plans–Financial advisors generally prefer to offer advice within the context of a client’s current situation and overall financial goals. But financial advisors frequently help clients with specific matters such as rolling over a retirement account or developing a realistic budget.
  • Financial planners aren’t worth the expense–Like other professionals, financial advisors receive compensation for their services, and it’s important for you to understand how they’re paid. But a good financial advisor may help you save and earn more than you’ll pay in fees.

How are financial advisors compensated?

When it comes to compensation, advisors fall into four categories:

  • Salary based–You pay the company for which the advisor works, and the company pays its advisors a salary
  • Fee based–You pay a fee based on an hourly rate (for specific advice or a financial plan), or based on a percentage of your assets and/or income
  • Commission based–The advisor receives a commission from a third party for any products you may purchase
  • Commission and fee based–The advisor receives both commissions and fees

You’ll need to decide which type of compensation structure works best for you, based on your own personal circumstances.

When is it time to consult a financial advisor?

In many cases, a specific life event or a perceived need may prompt you to seek professional financial planning guidance. Such events or needs might include:

  • Getting married or divorced
  • Having a baby or adopting a child
  • Paying for your child’s college education
  • Buying or selling a family business
  • Changing jobs or careers
  • Planning for your retirement
  • Developing an estate plan
  • Coping with the death of your spouse
  • Receiving an inheritance or a financial windfall

In these situations, a financial professional can help you make objective, rather than emotional, decisions.

Finding a professional you can trust starts here

You don’t have to wait until an event occurs before you consult a financial advisor. Contact us today and one of our financial advisors can help you develop an overall strategy for approaching your financial goals that not only anticipates what you’ll need to do to reach them, but that remains flexible enough to accommodate your evolving financial needs.