Ask the grumpies: How to find a smart fee-only financial planner, or should we just give up and do it ourselves?

CG asks:

How to find a smart fee-for-service financial planner? We (especially DH) think we are pretty smart about investing (index funds!), but we have enough money saved now that we really would like another set of eyes on our choices. The people we’ve gone to so far are hearty retired-athlete types who are probably good at relationship building in general, but not with us. Basically we have to feel like the person is truly an expert and as smart as or smarter than we are or else we won’t be getting anything out of it. Do such people exist?

Here’s Walter Updegrave’s suggestion on the CNN Money Site and on his own website.

If you have a lot of money and are thinking about asset transfer/tax avoidance, then maybe a tax attorney or CPA.  I’m not sure how to find a good one of those as we’re not in that bracket.  If you have money in stocks there’s probably things that can be done with losses and conversions etc. to save money on your annual tax bill.

You are probably best off posting on the Bogleheads forum and asking your questions direclty. It is likely that the people who truly are experts and smarter than you are at this stuff are outside of what you’re willing to pay for their services.  If you are willing to spend a large sum, then you’d be best off asking rich friends to ask their rich friends, though many of them are probably also getting shafted by people who aren’t actually doing what’s best for them.

If what you want is just about balance of assets, then asking the Bogleheads forum is going to work well.  There are lots of smart and expert people on Bogleheads who are just giving financial advice to upper income folks away for free.

In addition, there’s a wide range of acceptable even given your personal risk tolerances.  There really isn’t one optimal mix given uncertainty and our uncertainty about how certain we are.  Because you are smart and have the basics down, if you do it yourself with the help of online calculators there won’t be much that a financial advisor can add.  If you’ve exhausted your annual retirement savings and have space for taxable, here’s our thoughts on what should go where when you’re investing.

To sum:  You are probably doing just fine.  But if you have doubts, check out the Bogleheads forum.  If you still want a financial planner, read through the Updegrave links above and you might get lucky, or be prepared to spend a lot and still have a chance of not getting much out of it.

Does anybody have better advice for CG?  Have you found a financial planner you love?  How?

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9 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: How to find a smart fee-only financial planner, or should we just give up and do it ourselves?”

  1. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Is today’s ask the grumpies question a real question or did I somehow write it in my sleep and not notice?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It’s a real question to which I did not have a good answer. I thought you said, “I will just ask [one of our many friends from high school who struck it big moving to silicon valley during the dot com boom] who he uses” when I asked it to you a few years back.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I asked [other rich friend from college who also struck it big in the dot com boom] and he said he fired his guy

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        So, I’m guessing they’re hard to find and hard to determine who is actually providing value added and who is just a scammer, even among the super rich (see also: individualized college prep industry).

        But at bogleheads, they give it away for free!

  2. bogart Says:

    Oh urf. I don’t have better advice (and I’d guess how easy or difficult this is probably functions a good bit by where you live) but I too want to tackle this task. My actual goal is sometime in the next decade to find a fee-payable (doesn’t have to be only — see what follows, I’d be OK with a % of what’s managed down the road, provided it’s reasonable — but I want that for now) CFP who’s part of a practice (i.e. a group) and who I like well enough to work with (or work with others in the practice, if the person I pick keels over before me or retires) for the rest of my life. Right now I’m probably at the tipping point between whether there’s added value (given the cost of paying for service) versus just DIY, but in the long run I’d like to connect with a professional who can get to know me and my values, approach, priorities well enough that if I reach a stage where I am uninterested or incompetent they can be a useful part of a team making decisions for me.

  3. CG Says:

    Thanks for posting this! Sounds like it isn’t easy for anyone, including your Silicon Valley friend.


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