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Financial planners are our friends … really

Allie Johnson

May 7, 2014

For the past year, I’ve been saying I want to sit down with my husband, Joe, and a fee-only financial planner to look at our overall financial picture. I want advice on what we can be doing better — especially in terms of retirement investment. But, I keep putting it off. Why?

A fee-only financial planner is a professional who charges for services but does not accept any commissions for selling products. You can find one via the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

Joe and I were somewhat financially irresponsible in our 20s. Then we both made major career changes (he went back to grad school to become a college professor, and I went into freelance writing) and the recession hit. Now that we’ve come out well on the other side, I know we have some catching up to do.

Getting all that sorted out will be a relief. So, why am I dreading it so much? I can break it down into several reasons:

  • General anxiety about opening up our finances, and possibly being judged for mistakes.
  • Fear that I might have to spend hours gathering financial information to prepare for the meeting (the same reason I hate tax season).
  • The fee — even though I know it will pay for itself many times over, actually paying for advice isn’t cheap.

It turns out I’m not alone. In fact, in February, USA Today ran this headline: “Do you have ‘financial adviser anxiety?'”

In the article, financial psychologist Brad Klontz says that shame around money keeps many Americans stuck.

The article cites an Australian report that found almost half of adults surveyed expressed mild anxiety about meeting with a financial adviser, while about one quarter had moderate to severe anxiety.

But Marv Kaye, a certified financial planner, writes that clients shouldn’t worry.

Financial planners are “accustomed to seeing clients with dysfunctional financial backgrounds,” Kaye writes.

In fact, a good financial planner will look at your situation objectively and try to be sensitive and detached while making recommendations. So, your initial nervousness should quickly turn to relief, he writes.

If you want to seek the services of a financial planner, but you’ve been putting it off, certified financial planner Jeff Rose provides tips on the personal finance blog Get Rich Slowly.

He gives great advice on how to check your adviser’s background and qualifications. For example, he advises you to not only check the planner’s credentials, but to understand what they mean.

Just don’t use checking out the adviser’s credentials as a way to procrastinate even longer.

Now that I know what I know, I feel a little silly. I’m not sure anymore why I worried about meeting with a financial planner. What’s my next plan of action? I’m picking up the phone to make an appointment right now.