(BPT) - The idea of retirement may start out as a distant dream. You have hopes and plans for that special time that seems so far away. Sooner or later that time will be here and hopefully you'll be ready.
However, recent research shows many people are not prepared to enjoy a financially stable retirement. A study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute states:
* Only 18 percent of people are very confident they will have the savings they need for a comfortable retirement;
* One-third of people aren't confident they will be able to cover basic living expenses in retirement;
* 45 percent of Americans aren't confident they will be able to cover their medical expenses once they're retired;
* 3 in 10 workers report that preparing for retirement causes them to feel mentally or emotionally stressed.
Securing your retirement through financial planning
'Many people recognize the value of saving for a comfortable retirement. They just don't know how to manage their money effectively to maximize their savings and realize their dreams,' says Geoffrey Brown, CEO of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. 'To create an actionable strategy for saving, consumers should look for financial planners who are fiduciaries for help. These professionals are entrusted to manage assets or wealth while putting the client's best interests first at all times.'
Financial planners provide support and advice on a wide array of financial topics, including budgeting, estate planning, investments, education funding, insurance and risk management, healthcare planning, and, of course, retirement planning and senior issues. Financial planners who are members of NAPFA are all fee-only and compensated solely through fees from their clients, rather than by transaction-based commissions. Most commissions-based advisors are salespeople rather than comprehensive financial planners.
All NAPFA members also sign a fiduciary oath, meaning they must disclose any conflict, or potential conflict, to their clients prior to and throughout the advisory engagement. Working with a fee-only fiduciary means you can be sure the advice you receive from your financial planner is in your best interest, not their best interest.
To find the right financial planner for you and your needs, follow these tips from NAPFA:
* Finalize your own initial strategy. Before looking for a financial planner, think about the goals you want to attain: What are you saving for? Are you trying to prepare for retirement, save for a new home or put a child through college? Maybe you're saving for all the above. Once you understand your goals, it will be easier to find a planner who can help you reach them.
* Select several advisors. Don't narrow your focus when looking for the right financial planner. Instead, consult websites like NAPFA.org. Use the NAPFA Find an Advisor search platform to locate a financial planner who can help you get where you're going. Word of mouth is fine for some pursuits, but your financial goals are specific to your life, and probably differ greatly from those of your friends. Once you have a 'short list' of possible planners, then you are ready to move on to the next step.
* Do your homework. When it comes to vetting a financial planner, a little research goes a long way. Once you've collected the names of a couple of planners that appeal to you, learn a little more about them. Visit their company websites or review their LinkedIn profiles to learn more about the company and the planner. You can also search the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission site or BrokerCheck by FINRA to learn more about the planner's disciplinary history. It's important to review an advisor's disciplinary records, their practice focus and their credentials - such as whether or not they are a Certified Financial Planner(TM) (CFP(R)) professional. This work can help you ask the right questions when setting up your first in-person meeting.
* Meet them face-to-face. If you like everything you've found so far, then it's time to meet your potential financial planner. Set up a face-to-face meeting and bring questions of your own or use a Financial Planner Diagnostic tool. Pay attention not only to the answers your potential planner gives, but also to your comfort level during the conversation. Your financial planner will have a large role in your future success so it's important that you feel comfortable with the relationship.
* Review your results initially and annually. Once you've finished your interviews, take the time to review all the information you've gathered and pick the financial planner that best fits your needs. After that, plan to review the performance of your finances every year. Your relationship with your planner is ongoing and a successful partnership is one in which you feel comfortable, your savings grow and you're left excited and confident about what's in store for your financial future.
To learn more about how you can find the right financial planner for you, visit NAPFA.org.