The Wisconsin Bankers Association offers for your use the following consumer education column. Your bank is free to use this as a community column in your local newspaper, a letter to the editor, a press release or in any other way you see fit. The purpose is to give our members an easy-to-use tool for promoting the banking industry to Wisconsin's communities.

 

Tax season is here, which means you might be deciding between filing yourself or seeking out a professional. However, taxes aren't the only reason to seek out financial advice. An overwhelming majority of U.S. adults do not seek out professional financial advice, while you might not need professional help to create a family budget, expert advice can make the road to retirement, investing, or saving for college much smoother. Check out these common reasons people avoid getting professional financial advice and how to overcome them. 

I'm not rich, so I don't need a professional. 
Achieving financial security requires serious planning, professional help, and strong discipline over a long period of time, no matter what your net worth is. An expert financial planner can help you assess your current situation and help you determine how to reach your goals by building a realistic, comprehensive plan. They can also provide an objective perspective to stressful, emotional decisions, such as what to do with an inheritance. Most importantly, a professional financial advisor will work for you and with you to help you follow your plan by tracking your progress and adjusting your plan if necessary. 

I don't know what questions to ask.
That doesn't matter because you'll start by answering questions, not asking them. A good financial planner will start the relationship by getting to know you and your goals, so they'll be the ones asking questions during your first meeting or two. After that, they will use that profile to guide you in the right direction. The one question you should ask before hiring a financial planner is: How are you paid and what are your fees? Make sure you understand exactly how much you'll be charged for their advice before deciding if that planner is right for you. 

I can't tell if I'm getting good advice. 
It's good to approach financial advice with a healthy level of skepticism, but there are some assurances you can look for to help you verify that your advisor really is working in your best interests. First, check that they are licensed by the State, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), or the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board). You should also verify that your financial planner is acting in an official fiduciary capacity, meaning they are legally obligated to act in your best interests. The U.S. Department of Labor has a list of questions to ask available on their website.

If you have questions about how to find a financial advisor, talk to your local banker about their financial planning and wealth management services.

An archive of Consumer Columns is available online at www.wisbank.com/ConsumerColumns.

Visit MyMazuma for the latest financial education resources for consumers.