Financial planning is one of those things my husband and I do about twice a year. And it’s not really planning as much as it is sitting down and taking our financial pulse. Back in Boston we had a financial planner we liked and he would come to the house about once a year to sort of “check in.” This meeting usually involved me sitting there, listening, while he and Mike talked about stocks, bonds, 529s, life insurance and the like. I filled the water glasses.

It’s not that I wasn’t interested, it’s just in the vain of equally shared parenting, finances fall on his side of the equation. I shop for groceries, he pays the bill. I shop for clothes, he complains about what I spend. This is just how it works.

But since coming to New York, we haven’t had a single meeting with our advisor. Or the lawyer who drew up our wills and health care proxies years back. It occurred to us that we should probably look for someone local. So this morning we had our first meeting and it felt a little, well, embarrassing. It’s not every day you put all your debts and savings and salary info on the table for strangers.

By the time we were done I told the woman, “I’m a size 6 and like to shop at Banana Republic and J Crew. Anything else you want to know?”

But going through this exercise proved to be very eye-opening. They asked us questions I haven’t really thought much about like: How do you feel about financing your kids’ college educations? Will you do it for them or will they take loans? What about your parents or other family members you may have to take care of? What kind of income do you want to have should one of you die young? What kinds of insurance do you have: long-term care, disability, life and how much?

We thought about a lot of this when our boys were babies, but much has changed for us since then. And the meeting today reminded me just how much.

So while it felt like a cross between a counseling session and a gynecological exam, I’m glad we went. Sitting with my husband and talking about our 5, 10, and 15-year goals was somewhat reassuring.

The good news: we’re on the same path and looking forward to a time when we are less busy, the kids are in college and we’re able to enjoy the next phase of life together. The reality: we’ve got a way to go to get there.

 

9 Responses to Meeting with the Financial Planner

  1. Erin says:

    I loved this post – thank you for, as always, sharing so honestly.
    I have been terrified of calling in a financial planning because I am so incredibly ignorant when it comes to money matters. But the end goal – a plan for the future – is one I desperately want to achieve.
    Do you have any advice for actually finding a financial planner? Maybe if I take that first step I’ll actually finally cross this off the list!

  2. Erin H. says:

    To Erin the commenter above – one of the most important things about finding a financial planner is finding one who will do a fee-for-service financial plan. That means you pay them a flat fee, instead of them just taking a % of what they invest for you or sell you (like insurance). You might end up doing other things with them where they get commission, which can be fine, but if you just pay them for helping you with planning you don’t have to worry that they are motivated more by their commission than what is best for you.

    Also very important. Find someone who 1) you are not intimidated by 2) who is willing to explain things to you until you understand them. I heard a financial advice person say you want someone with “a heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman”. These are harder to find but it’s worth the time. You could start by asking friends if they have someone they like and trust. There are financial planners who specialize in working with women – you might feel more comfortable with someone like that.

    I also got started by reading financial blogs and some non-complicated financial books. Get Rich Slowly, Wise Bread, Free Money Finance, Money Saving Mom, are all good blogs to check out. Your Money or Your Life, The Millionaire Next Door, and The Total Money Makeover are some good books. I haven’t read Suze Orman’s books but a lot of people like them too.

    Good luck!

  3. Erin says:

    Thank you Erin H.! This is why I love Manic Mommies. And women names Erin. ;)
    I am totally inspired!

  4. Erin says:

    *named Erin

    (I need a spelling expert too.)

  5. Laura says:

    Just wanted to say thanks so much for this post. My hubby and I have tried to do things the “right” way with a formal will and estate plan, retirement accounts, life insurance, etc., but I’ve always wanted to find a financial planner that would really help with the PLANNING part. Reading this just reaffirmed my own instinct and that I need/want to follow through with it.

    Thanks for sharing!! Really!!! You guys are the best.

  6. Erin says:

    @Erins and @Laura

    Thanks for the feedback. I hesitated to write this post but I figured if I’m dealing with these issues, others probably are as well. After we left the meeting they wanted us to do a survey on how we feel about risk and investments and said we should each fill out our own form. When we sat down to do it, I looked at Mike’s answers because I wasn’t sure how I felt about many of the questions. That’s when I realized I really do need to pay more attention to this stuff.

  7. Susan says:

    The first time my husband and I did this I cried at our kitchen table over the amount of debt we had ( we were about to get married). 4 years later we have everything paid off except our house, which is on track to be paid off in 18 months. We have a ” finance committee” mtg about every 3-4 months over a beer or in the car on our way somewhere. It’s been a great springboard for conversation about $ really. Thanks for posting such a scary topic, Erin!

  8. DT says:

    We have a good pulse about our financial investments and were always suspicious about financial advisers. How do we make sure they are advising us to do what is good for us as appose to investing in the financial vehicles that they represent? Are there independent advisers out there that can look at ALL the options in the market and give a good objective advice?

  9. Kristin says:

    “Putting on her banker hat…” That’s a great question!

    The good news is that there are advisers that you can work with to develop the plan, but not to implement it. You will have to pay for the service, but that may allow you to feel more comfortable that they are being objective. You can also hire an adviser that is “fee-only” meaning they are paid either a flat-fee or an hourly rate for their work. According to a Forbes article ( http://www.forbes.com/sites/williampbarrett/2011/09/08/how-to-pick-a-financial-advisor/ ) this means that “No part of the compensation is based on where investments are made, meaning the planner/advisor acts solely in your best interest. It’s the highest form of help–and usually the most expensive.”

    As for finding the right person. Start by asking your friends. In fact, I have to ask Erin who she used to work with around here because I know she and Mike trusted that person. You can also look to the web site for “Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards” to find someone. Then, check out this list (again from Forbes) about how to interview and make your final selection.
    http://www.forbes.com/pictures/mjf45eige/finding-good-help/

    Hope that helps!