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Learning to Pick the Best
I get it—the world of finance can seem intimidating. There are always news stories about scams to avoid and “financial advisors” going to jail. Out of all the advice out there, how do you know who you should listen to and where you should start? Here are three easy ways to educate yourself:
1. The Library
This may sound old-school, but the public library has a wealth of free resources available. I am partial to this suggestion because this is how I started learning about finance myself. I was a college graduate, married, and a homeowner before I really recognized how little I knew about finance. I am not joking–the first book I checked out of the library was “Personal Finance for Dummies.” Now, most public libraries have their catalogs available online to check out as well if you have an e-reader or tablet. Start at the very beginning. Make sure you have a good grasp of the basics (what is a stock? what is a bond?) before you start moving on to more complex topics. Investing does not have to be complicated, and you should be wary of any investments you don’t understand.
2. Your Employer Plan
Do you have an employer plan? By employer plan, I mean a 401(k), 403(b), or a retirement account offered through your employer. If so, it is likely held by a large firm like Vanguard, Fidelity, Charles Schwab, or others. If you do have this option available, try logging in and spending some time looking around their website. Most money managers will have educational material available for free for participants on their websites. There may even be free options provided by your employer to speak with an advisor about your situation. These resources are part of the benefits plan offered to you by an employer, so make sure to take advantage of them!
3. A Fiduciary Advisor
Work with an advisor who is a fiduciary. Investopedia defines a fiduciary as “a person or organization that acts on behalf of another person or persons, putting their clients’ interest ahead of their own, with a duty to preserve good faith and trust.” The best way to find out if an advisor is a fiduciary? Ask them straight out! A true fiduciary will not hesitate to answer you when you ask this question. Before hiring any advisor, make sure to ask how they are paid and if they receive any commissions on the products they sell.
The first step is the hardest–once you decide how you’d like to move forward, don’t be afraid to take it! Whether you decide to move forward on your own or work with an advisor you will be amazed how much you can learn along this journey.
Carol Bell, CFP®, MBA
Senior Wealth Advisor
Carol specializes in helping clients understand their investments. She is not just a financial planner and investment manager but loves her role as a financial coach and cheerleader. “Money is such an emotional topic. I think of what I do every day as financial counseling more than just focusing on dollars and cents.”
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