Financial Advice

There are all kinds of ways to get financial information. There is a distinction, though, between specific financial advice for your particular situation on the one hand, and general financial information more or less applicable to everyone, on the other hand. This site, along with many others, seeks to provide general information for the good of the public, and as such, the information may not be applicable to your particular situation.

Patrick Astre, in his book “This is not Your Parent’s Retirement” (see <a href=”http://www.whystudymoney.com/index.php/weblog/category/Reference%20Library/” title=”Reference Library”><b>Reference Library</b></a>) makes a good case for using a financial planner. Yet how do you know who a good financial planner is, and at what point does it make sense to use one? Certainly it’s obvious that a millionaire sports star, a lottery winner and such should have a financial planner and will be able to pay appropriately for that advice. I guess in these conditions I would start with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards,   though I would make sure I understood how a particular individual with that certification was being compensated. Certified Financial Planners do have a form from the certifying Board that the client is to sign saying he understands he has the right to ask for compensation information as relates to his relationships, but the form itself does not necessarily furnish it (a template download from the CFP Board site is available). As always, let the buyer beware.

If you’re not in that particular income bracket, but just an ordinary individual, you may be approached by someone offering “financial services”, to help you with your “financial plan”. They may simply be insurance salesmen selling annuities, or more broad-based, suggesting replacement of whole life insurance policies with term policies and replacement of Certificates of Deposit with mutual funds (probably funds carrying a “load”, or an initial percentage payment, of which the salesman and his agency get a cut). If you are really ignorant of financial instruments and basic handling of your finances, this may not be an altogether bad thing, but you can do better. Start by reading some of the books in the <a href=”http://www.whystudymoney.com/index.php/weblog/category/Reference%20Library/” title=”Reference Library”><b>Reference Library</b></a>, especially the Downey book or the Sheard book.

You should note also that there is a plethora of newsletters and other information available for investors. To see one website I find interesting, go to MarketWatch.com. Buried at the bottom they do have a link for Premium Products, and you might consider subscribing to one of those. Quite popular is Motley Fool’s Stock Advisor; one web page says they have over 400 thousand subscribers, which would seem to me to be enough to actually impact the stock price of any recommendation, but I have no empirical evidence to take that position. I consider Bob Carlson’s Retirement Watch newsletter valuable for its take on financial and personal aspects of pre- and post-retirement affairs, though I don’t like his emphasis on diversification of investments through a large bundle of mutual funds – I’d want fewer funds then my own stock picks of companies not likely to be in the funds, and I’d use a newsletter like The Prudent Speculator or Personal Finance Newsletter and ValueLine Investment Advisor to help me choose those other investments, and I do so with the full realization that anything in any of these newsletters may be wrong (they all seem responsible journalist and advisors, but nobody can see the future with one hundred percent clarity). Having said that, Carlson’s approach might be just right for someone retiring with substantial assets (more so than mine) who simply doesn’t want to pay a whole lot of attention to them.

The important point, I believe, is that you must take responsibility for your own financial health. It may not be a nuclear disarmament treaty you are negotiating, but as President Reagan was fond of saying, “Trust, but verify”.

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