Overrated: Professional financial help often more of a hindrance

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When you want to take care of your health, you go see a doctor. When you want to take care of your house, you call the best contractor you can find and, if you want to get in shape, a personal trainer (or at least some exercise classes) can be a wise investment.

That's the line of logic that many people use when they decide to hire a financial planner, adviser, broker, or whatever title is used for the person who promises to make you richer in exchange for a piece of the action. Here's the problem with hiring financial help: you're paying them to help you make money and, in addition to doing better than you'd do on your own, they have to do better by a wide enough margin to justify the fees. Professional financial help is like a swim coach who attaches himself to your back for the Olympic Trials.

Don't miss the rest of our series on Overrated people, places and things!

Study after study after study (See A Random Walk Down Wall Street) has shown that professionals are extremely unlikely to earn you better returns than you could on your own by buying low-cost index mutual funds through a company like Vanguard Group.

However if your financial situation is exceptionally complex, or you're just not comfortable doing a little research and making the decisions on your own, please, please, please only work with a fee-only financial planner, not a broker who is paid on commission and incentivized to sell you products that may not be in your best interests. Click here to find one in your area.

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