Question: I am 60 years old, single and don’t have any children. I am well into seven figures with retirement savings, made up of three 401(k)s, two mutual funds and a $350,000 pension. My only debt is a $60,000 HELOC. I don’t have a mortgage, credit card debt or car loans. I am not concerned about leaving a legacy after I die. I’d like to retire at age 62 and collect Social Security. My question is, do I need to retain a financial advisor for a 1% fee or can I navigate my retirement financially with an accountant only? (You can use this tool from SmartAsset to get matched with a financial adviser who might meet your needs.)
Answer: Firstly, understand the differences in what an accountant can do for you, and what a financial adviser can. “An accountant could help with taxes, but is unlikely to address anything else,” says Julia Kramer, certified financial behavior specialist and certified public accountant at Signature Financial Planning. A financial planner, meanwhile, will tackle issues like how to handle your investments as you progress through retirement, how much money you can withdraw each year in retirement, how to smartly time Social Security and how to pay for potential long-term care needs. You can read our guide about hiring a certified financial planner here.
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You may be able to handle this on your own, depending on how comfortable you are in handling these financial issues, as well as how much time and energy you can devote to doing so, pros say. “It’s important to recognize the extent of the decisions that you are [facing], if you choose not to hire a financial adviser, so that you can make a clear decision of where you want to spend your time and energy in retirement,” says Michael E. Kitces, chief financial planning guru at Kitces.com. (You can use this tool from SmartAsset to get matched with an advisor who might meet your needs.)
You also should consider whether you feel an adviser will be worth the money. Ask yourself: “Is it worthwhile to spend a traditional 1% per year advisory fee … and get support on the other financial and retirement issues that go along with retirement,” says Kitces.
Consider, too, whether you enjoy keeping up with the economy, markets and investments, says Kramer. “In my case, from my 20s to my 40s, I very much enjoyed handling my investments. In my mid-40s, I found that I didn’t enjoy it as much and wanted to spend my time on other personal and professional pursuits, so outsourcing that part of my finances was a good choice,” says Kramer, who now employs a financial adviser herself.
Another thing Kramer recommends thinking about is whether or not you can tolerate the ups and downs of the market without making emotional changes to your portfolio. “If so and you answer yes to enjoying keeping up with the market, you may not need a financial adviser. If not, having an adviser is an excellent choice to help navigate the inevitable ups and downs,” says Kramer.
Know too, that you don’t have to hire an adviser on an ongoing basis if you want to simply dip your toes in to give one a try. “This could be an hourly planner if you don’t want to commit to ongoing planning initially,” says Karla McAvoy, certified financial planner and chair of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisers (NAPFA).