Build Your Own Personal Board of Directors for Your Family
Corporations have boards of directors to help them make decisions and draft corporate strategy. You should do the same. Develop your own team of professionals to help guide you through life and the financial decisions you make for your family. Think of your certified financial planner, lawyer, certified public accountant and real estate broker as members of your personal board of directors.
Add a Financial Planner to You Team
We all need advice from time to time, especially about our finances. We need someone to reassure us that we are heading in the right direction, saving enough for our financial goals and making the best possible choices.
Whether you need a complete financial plan or simply want to make sure that your idea to invest in a Roth individual retirement account vs. a 401(k) retirement plan is a sound choice, having a financial planner on your team who you can turn to will help.
"I would recommend that, at a minimum, people find a CFP professional when putting together a team of trusted advisers," says Michael H. Baker, a certified financial planner with Vertex Capital Advisors in Charlotte, North Carolina. "A competent CFP can bring valuable insights into all areas of your financial life and potentially act as a coordinator amongst all of the professionals, which simplifies the process for clients."
Some financial planners charge an hourly fee, instead of a flat rate, which can make it easier for you to seek out their advice. A good financial planner should be the cornerstone of any family board of directors that you put together. Even if you only turn to him or her from time to time for guidance, you'll feel better knowing that you have such a safety net.
You can find a certified financial planner through the CFP Board of Standards, which sets the standards for the education, exam, ethics and other requirements for the designation.
Should You Have a Lawyer on Retainer?
I feel very lucky that my brother-in-law is a lawyer. I can, and have, turned to him for advice from time to time. Last year, he helped me understand the fine print of an employment contract that I was considering signing.
Not everyone has the luxury of having a family member who is a lawyer. That's one reason that you should have the name and number of someone that you trust before you need it. You don't want to be in pickle and have to settle on a random lawyer. Or you don't want to have to fish around for recommendations at the last minute when you're in a crunch. That's why it is critically important to already have a relationship with a lawyer before you need it.
"Usually when someone needs an attorney the situation has escalated to being a significant problem," says James Sullivan, an attorney from Nashville. "If you are in the market for a lawyer after something has happened, your bargaining power may be more limited because you are dealing with the strain of a legal issue and a faster timetable that can result in a larger legal fee."
Get a lawyer and have his or her card in your wallet. Get him on the team, save him or her for a rainy day, and hope that you never need to use the business card in your wallet. But, if you do, you'll be glad that you already have someone you can turn to.
"If you have a prior relationship with an attorney (either personally or professionally), you could likely ask their advice on simple issues at no cost," says Sullivan. "If you were to retain an attorney for advice, then you could likely negotiate a monthly retainer where you could pay a small monthly fee and be able to call in whenever you had questions."
An Accountant Saves Me Hundreds Each Year
I've found that my taxes get harder to file every year. As we get older, our financial situation changes, our family grows, and often our taxes become more complex. A good accountant pays for him or herself many times over.
I've recently become an accidental landlord, but I routinely lose money on my rental property. My accountant has helped me deduct those losses from my taxable income.
My accountant has saved me hundreds of dollars every year with tax-saving strategies that I never would have thought of. An accountant is an invaluable member of any financial team that you build for your family.
Real Estate Agent
Even if you are not in the market to buy or sell a home, having someone that you can ping with questions about real estate can be a huge help.
"I think it is an excellent idea to have a Realtor that you trust that you can consult with when you have real estate questions," says Nicholas Pasquini Jr., chief financial officer at Century 21 Redwood Realty. "Although a retainer fee is a nice idea that would ensure some clients access to real estate information when they need it, a true real estate professional is willing to offer this advice for free as part or their service. In my personal experiences, quality advice has always led to future sales and income."
I've turned to my Realtor many times even for things as simple as recommendations for landscapers, contractors, and the like. Whether your looking to start dabbling in rental properties, selling your home, or just looking to fix it up, a real estate agent can help provide you with valuable advice along the way.
Picking someone to help you with your finances or in a legal situation out of the Yellow Pages is always a bad idea. But it takes time to get recommendations for professionals from friends, family, and coworkers. You need to put together you family's financial team, your own personal board of directors, now before you need their help.
You never know when you'll need someone to give you advice until the decision is upon you. Then you're scrambling around to get recommendations for a lawyer, a real estate agent, or an accountant.
But it doesn't have to be that way. If you had your own personal board of directors, you would have a treasure trove of professionals to turn to for advice. Whether it is having someone on retainer, establishing a relationship, or simply having business cards in your wallet, it's a good idea to have trusted professionals on your side that you can turn to for help.
Do you have a lawyer on retainer? Do you have a CPA or CFP that you can turn to? Have you ever thought about building your own financial advice team to help guide you along the way?
Hank Coleman is the publisher of the popular personal finance blog Money Q&A, where he answers readers' tough money questions. Follow him on Twitter @MoneyQandA.