Finding the Right Financial Advisor

In this episode of Motley Fool Answers, hosts Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp are joined by Sean Gates of Motley Fool Wealth Management to discuss the choices you have when it comes to finding the right financial advisor and how to tell if you need one.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool’s free podcasts, check out our podcast center. To get started investing, check out our quick-start guide to investing in stocks. A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on June 22, 2021.

Alsion Southwick: This is Motley Fool Answers. I’m Alison Southwick, and I’m joined, as always, by Robert, take me to Frederick, Maryland, Brokamp. In this episode, Motley Fool Wealth Management’s Sean Gates joins us to talk about how to find professional financial help that fits your niche needs. All that and more on this week’s episode of Motley Fool Answers.

Robert Brokamp: Alison, what’s up?

Southwick: Well, Bro, last week, I talked about the future of remote work, productivity, and advancements for those who largely spend their day sitting in front of a computer. In the U.S, that’s about 30%-40% of the workforce, according to McKinsey. But what about everyone else whose job needs to be done in person, healthcare, education, hospitality? Is there a workplace revolution happening for them as well? What does the future look like? Well, it’s complicated. The jobs in this country that can’t be done from a computer are diverse: service, production, healthcare, construction, education, agriculture, and more. Where people do this work is also diverse from farmers in the field to massive Amazon warehouses to the appliance repairmen who came by my house last week. It is also divided at racial lines. According to The Washington Post, looking at BLS data, 37% of Asian Americans and 30% of whites said they could work remotely, but only 20% of blacks and 16% of Hispanics said they could work remotely. The ability to work from home varies by education level. Almost 52% of those with a college education or higher, said they could work from home, but only four% of those with less than a high school diploma said they could.

There’s also some amount of range in pay, for example, an esteemed surgeon may make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, meanwhile, a server might make a tipped wage of a couple of dollars an hour. But if you lump them all together, generally speaking, jobs that can be done in front of a computer pay better than those that have to be done in person. The diverse work we’re talking about here, work that can’t be done remotely is so diverse that it makes it hard to talk about. However, when you dig into some of the sectors, there are some interesting things afoot. Restaurants and retail, in particular, are ready for their big comeback but struggling to find workers. Experts point to a few reasons. They say some people are waiting to reenter the workforce once COVID has gone away or they need to resolve child care issues, and then others say that the stimulus checks pay more than the worker would make in their job; although the Labor Secretary pushed back on this theory. How bad is it for employers? Well, according to QSR magazine, a restaurant trade magazine, 40% of restaurants said they’re severely understaffed. The AP cites an example in an article on the labor demands, the CEO of SpartanNash, I’ve never heard of it, but it’s a grocery distributor and retailer. Their CEO said on a conference call with investors that the company took part in a job fair with 60 companies that had 500 jobs to fill and only four candidates showed up. In a fun example of supply and demand, the supply being a diminished number of retail and restaurant workers, and the demand being the high number of vacant jobs employers are now having to increase wages.

According to the MarketWatch, in the past two months alone, wages grew at 7.4% annual pay, that’s three times the normal annual average. Most of the increases are taking place in lower-wage occupations at hotels, restaurants, casinos, etc. A Business Insider story highlighted a McDonald’s in Florida paying people $50 just to show up for a job interview. Sandwich franchise Jimmy John’s reports that franchisees are offering $300 sign-on bonuses in some locations and up to $200 in retention bonuses. Back to QSR magazine, they say Chipotle is expanding its benefits to include debt-free degrees and Whataburger is now forking up six figures for GMs. The biggest retailers are also raising their salaries. Walmart, which is still the largest private-sector employer, announced raises for 425,000 employees in February, lifting its average wage above $15 an hour. The second-largest private employer in the U.S, Amazon, said in April that more than 500,000 of its employees would see increases of between $0.50 and $3 an hour. Costco lifted its starting wage to $16 an hour this year.

Of course, some business leaders and economists warn that increasing labor costs will ultimately pass on to consumers in higher-cost for services and goods, which could mean that inflation could be a little more of a long-term pain than the Federal Reserve has said. In fact, it could cause, get ready for this, Bro, a wage-price spiral. It’s a term economists used to describe when rising wages lead to more consumer spending, which leads to strains on providing products, which leads to higher business costs, which leads to higher prices, which leads to more demand for wage increases, and there we are at the top of the spiral again. According to Bloomberg, fretting economists point to the wage-price spiral as a major factor behind inflation in the ’70s. I wasn’t really around for the ’70s, but I think I’m supposed to be really freaked out, anyone talks about ’70s level inflation. Ultimately, the Fed says, “Don’t worry, this is all temporary and that rising wages for the lowest earners in our nation is not going to trip a wage-price spiral.” Although also trying not to freak out, Chipotle did just increase the price of their menu items by about 4%.

On the one hand, it’s nice to see wages rise for the lowest earners in our country who’ve perhaps been left behind as the wealth gap continues to increase in recent years. But then, on the other hand, I feel for small restaurant and retail owners who operate on razor-thin margins and probably can’t compete with big retailers and chain restaurants by attracting talent through higher wages. Then on my decidedly selfish third arm, I like things really cheap. Ultimately, it’s hard to see through the fog of war here, the numbers economists look at all screwy as a result of the pandemic, and so it will be a while before we’re able to look back with any certainty about what caused what or when or why. Even then, economists will disagree. That, Bro, is what’s up.


Brokamp: The Motley Fool’s formed almost 30 years ago on the belief that the typical person with enough time and curiosity could manage her money all on her own. Motley still believe that, we also recognize that there are times when it makes sense to get a little bit of professional help. Here to discuss how and when to get such help is Sean Gates, a Certified Financial Planner with Motley Fool Wealth Management, a sister company of The Motley Fool. Hello, Sean.

Sean Gates: Hi. Nice to see you both again.

Southwick: Hello.

Brokamp: Good to see you, too.

Gates: I guess I should say all three of you.

Brokamp: Yes, we can’t see Rick. But you won’t hear Rick, the producer, but we can all see Rick.

Rick Engdahl: You’ll never hear me.

Brokamp: Except for that one time. You and I, Sean, are a couple of people who worked on the broker side of the financial planning industry at one and then on the fee-only side, we’re both certified financial planners, so we thought we’d be at least qualified to help people find the financial help that they need. Let’s find out. If you are thinking, maybe I do need financial help, let’s talk about the range of that because there really is a range of the types of things people are looking for. It could be you just have a single question or maybe you just want one thing taken care of, maybe you just want your retirement plan analyzed, you’d handle it all on your own, but you just want to one-time second opinion or maybe you’ve gone through some life event; maybe you got divorced or something like that and you want to just make sure everything’s OK. You can move up from that to where people want a comprehensive financial plan which involves retirement, college, insurance, maybe taxes, maybe estate planning, something like that. Then there’s investment management. We know people who are perfectly fine with the financial planning part but they want somebody to manage part of their portfolio, and then there’s the whole enchilada, they want ongoing everything; ongoing financial planning and ongoing wealth management. Given your experience, where do you think most people fall or is it really a broad range of what people are looking for?

Gates: I think it’s a broad range of what people are looking for, but the vast majority of people are looking for a one-time assessment for whatever is particularly salient in their lives at the moment. That could be an investment review, a second set of eyes on what they’ve chosen, if they have Vanguard mutual funds, is that properly asset allocated, etc.? The unfortunate thing is most people just don’t know what they don’t know, so most people probably should be looking for comprehensive financial planning, proactive financial planning, but that’s hard to find and most people just don’t really know what that means still.

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Brokamp: I think another thing that turns some people off is when they look at the price tag of it. If you want a one-off financial plan or just a little help with something, it’s not going to be cheap, it’s going to be $150-$300 an hour. Put it all together, it could cost well over $1,000, for some people, $4,000 or $5,000. That’s a turn-off for some people, but obviously, over the long term, when you’re looking at your entire portfolio and your entire financial picture, that’s actually can be a pretty small investment.

Gates: Yes.

Brokamp: One way that people look at doing it on the cheap, which I don’t think is a horrible idea, at least as a starting point, is to look and see what’s offered by the financial services providers you’re already working with. If you have a discount brokerage account with somebody, there’s a chance that they offer some sort of either financial planning or investment management. I looked into this a little bit and it’s a broad range. Places like Vanguard and Fidelity, they’ll do it for like 0.32-0.5% a year, you have to have a higher minimum, $25,000-$50,000. Other firms say they do it for free, like E*Trade, but then you have to wonder a little bit like, is it really for free? What’s going to happen on the phone? Who are you going to be talking to? How qualified is that person? Then there are firms like T-Rowe Price, and I think Schwab does this as well, where if you have a certain level of assets, around $250,000, you do get access to a Certified Financial Planner. If you’re talking to someone, Sean, and they say, “You know what? I’m just going to see what’s offered by my discount broker.” What’s your response to that? Do you think they’re going to get good advice?

Gates: I think if they go to their discount broker, that’s probably going to be OK for that first set of folks where it’s I’m just looking for a second set of eyes, especially if it relates to investment management because the folks who work in that type of environment are usually a little bit more junior, they probably haven’t seen as many comprehensive situations. I wouldn’t expect them to be able to provide a full comprehensive plan, maybe unless they have the CFP designation, but many won’t in that particular situation. I think that would be good for a second set of eyes, type of conversation and a jumping off point to figure out what you might need, if you need something more robust.

Brokamp: Last week’s episode, we dedicated to robo-advisors and we had Matt Frankel on who writes for The Ascent, which is a Motley Fool website, and he reviews robo-advisors. I feel like we don’t have to go into too much detail, but it is certainly something for some people to consider, especially if you’re looking for low-cost asset management, particularly if you like index funds and ETFs, and I know, Sean, you and I are both sympathetic to the diversified low-cost index fund portfolio. Matt also pointed out that some of them do provide access to a human financial planner, as an addition to the investment management. Again, we don’t need to go into too much detail. If you’re interested in that, listen to last week’s episode or look at Matt’s article on The Ascent. But it’s certainly a newer way that people have begun getting some help with both investment management and a little bit of financial planning.

Gates: I think similar to the broker provided relationship manager or financial planner, you have to be a little bit careful about incentives, and we will probably talk about this a couple of different times, but when it’s associated with your current broker or if it’s a robo-advisor, typically, the recommendations, if they give any, are going to be motivated by getting assets onto whatever platform you’re talking about. I think one of the most common robo-advisors that offers financial planning would be something like personal capital. If you’ve ever hooked up your accounts to personal capital, you’ll have been called by their financial representatives, and it’s spearheaded by financial planning. But the goal is to incorporate more of their money management solution into your life, so you just want to be careful about incentives. I think everyone is aware of that, but just as you are vetting folks.

Brokamp: Yeah. I was looking into the services offered by one of the discount brokers, and they had a very thorough explanation of how people get paid. It was one of the discount brokers that said, “Yeah, you can talk to a financial consultant for free,” and they were very careful to use the term consultants because these people are not certified financial planners. It talked about all the different ways that you could end up basically paying them for some service or product, and it included asset management, but it also included using their bank for mortgages and things like that. So, expect that any solution that they provide to your financial planning quandary is probably going to be served by some product that they sell.

Gates: Exactly.

Brokamp: When most people think of getting financial advice, what they really think of is getting an independent financial planner who lives in their area. This is really the bread and butter of financial planning. We’ll talk a good bit about that, and really, since the beginning days of the Motley Fool, we’ve always recommended that you look for a fee-only planner who is a fiduciary. Just to break those terms down, fee-only means you are just paying them by the hour, by the project or assets under management. No service fees, no commissions, because theoretically, with the commission, that injects a bit of a conflict of interest, you don’t know if they are recommending the product that is best for you or it’s going to earn the better commission. Then fiduciary means that they are legally obligated to put your interest first. You would think that everyone in the financial services industry would be under that standard, but that’s actually not the case. Give me your take on that as someone, Sean, who has worked both in the fee-only world as well as in the broker world.

Gates: Yeah. As I’ve been in this industry, I feel like there’s no perfect business model for financial planning, there’s always conflicts no matter what you do. The closest pure fee-only service would be hourly. But if you run an hourly business model, it’s similar to legal consultations. You’re always under the assumption that maybe they’re going to slow things down, so that they can charge you for more hours, so you have to be careful about that. I don’t know many financial planners that do that, but you just want to be aware of that. Then you do want to make sure that, from the fiduciary side of things, I’ve been getting the question, are you a fiduciary? Quite a bit of phone calls lately as they interview Motley Fool Wealth Management for their services. It’s really easy to say yes. No. 1, the Certified Financial Planner designation, I’m beholden into that designation, so I’m a fiduciary by that designation. Any CFP you talk to is a fiduciary to the designation, but then it’s to who you work for. So then is the firm overall a fiduciary? Not every firm is a fiduciary or requires fiduciary level guidance.

Then finally, back to incentives, I tell people all the time, even though I’m a fiduciary, the business of Motley Fool Wealth Management does better if more assets come under our management. In a weird circuitous way, the more assets we gather, the better Motley Fool Wealth Management does, which is probably better for me. Even though it’s not a direct incentive, like I don’t get paid on commissions, I don’t get bonuses in that way, our company as a whole, does better, so that does create this tick in the back of your mind that could influence the financial planner’s behavior. I think, and we’ll probably get to this later in the call, but one interesting question to ask a financial advisor as you think about these terms, isn’t just how do you get paid, but it’s, “Okay, what are all possible benefits of me working with you?” To you as the end-user, because it’s not always just a pure transactional money in my pocket type of incentive that could creep up and we can talk more about that as we go.

Brokamp: I know people in the brokerage side who earn their living by selling products, including one-person who, if something were to happen to me, I told my wife, “Go see this person because he will treat you well,” and so they exists, but they have to always be fighting against what are obvious conflicts of interest. Although, I think you make a good point to the degree. There’s always some conflict of interest in the financial planning world. If you’re doing assets under management, are you still going to recommend someone pay off their mortgage when you could instead keep that money and manage it, or things like that. But it’s not so clear, whereas, if someone in the brokerage side says, “I think you should get this annuity and I’m going to get 8% commission off that annuity.” That’s a pretty clear interest that you have to make sure that you’re not too conflicted with.

Gates: Yeah, I mean, from the old world my whole story and why I had to get out of the quasi commission-based universe was someone they had worked with in the past in a loose way, they presented an insurance product to a client, and on the insurance disclosures form, they have the commission listed out in an effort to be transparent to the client. You print out this 30 page document that goes through all the disclosures. One page has the commission that’s going to get paid for the advisor, and they just took that page out and presented the rest of the pages to the client.

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Brokamp: Holy cow. Wow.

Gates: Yeah.

Brokamp: Let’s say someone has sold on this idea of finding a fee-only Financial Planner who’s a fiduciary. There are few places to find them and we’ve mentioned them on the show before: One is the Garrett Planning Network started by Sheryl Garrett who is one of my personal hero, she is really one of the good people in the financial services industry, another is the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors or NAPFA, which is a network of financial planners, I think they have more than 3,000; they’ve been around since 1983, independent financial planners, and then a newer entrants on the scene is the XY Planning Network, co-founded by Alan Moore and Michael Kitces; Michael Kitces being a financial planning guru who we’ve mentioned many times on the show before. They started out as targeting millennials and younger professionals, but now, they’ve expanded their reach to include a whole bunch of people. Now, those are great networks to find people in your area. Sean, what do you think of the typical advice of people who are like, “Why don’t you just get referrals from friends and relatives or maybe professionals you work with?”

Gates: Yeah, I think it’s difficult because the Garrett Planning Network, NAPFA, and XY Planning Network, they’re awesome resources and I would encourage everyone to use those. But the thing that is missing is the review system. If you go on Airbnb and you want to find a place to live and you’re looking for somewhere that you are not comfortable with, you at least have that social proof from the reviews. Because of our industry, because we’re so heavily regulated, that’s just not something that’s really possible. People will always have a little bit of reticence. I can go into the Garrett Planning Network type in my zip code, see advisors, but I still don’t know them from Adam, I don’t know if they’re going to do a good job for me, so at least it gives me a starting point. Whereas the referral from a friend, you have that social proof built-in. You have to be careful about social proof. I love Bro to death, but if he recommended some advisor to me, I would still be a little bit suspicious, because Bro’s weird and he’s not the smartest person in every realm. You just have to be careful about those referrals. Go ahead and interview them just like you would interview a Garrett Planning Network person, but don’t rely exclusively on that.

Brokamp: In case people are interested in starting with any of those networks that we’ve mentioned, and as Sean mentioned, you just got to the site, you put in your zip code and you see who is in your area. I think it’s important before you even start that, and really we talked on this a little bit in the show is you start with what you’re looking for because some people do just charge by the hour, some people do just charge by assets under management, which means they won’t charge by the hour, some have asset minimums, so you may like their page and think they’re the perfect fit for you, but then if you don’t have, let’s say, $250,000 or $500,000, they don’t accept you as a client. You start looking through the folks in your area. Now, I will say that really this has been going on before COVID, but since COVID, you don’t really have to find anyone in your area anymore, unless you want to meet face-to-face. You do have to find someone in your state because most of these things are regulated by the states, and these people have to be registered to work with people in your state. That’s another thing to keep in mind as you go through and look for someone who is a good fit.

I generally recommend that you identify maybe three that you think are appealing, and it could come from these sites or it could come from recommendations from friends or professionals you work with. Almost all of them will meet for free at least once, just to say, so you can understand what they’re doing, and then they will actually want to interview you as well because, on the financial planning side, there are people who will say, “I’m pretty choosy about the clients I work with. I want to make sure we are a good fit.” Any other thoughts, Sean, for people who are looking for a financial planner, will they get a few names, whether it’s from these sites or from their friends or professionals they know?

Gates: Yeah. I just like to be helpful in terms of things to think through. It’s very common nowadays for people to horse race planners, so they horse race investment accounts all the time, but this notion of interviewing multiple people, you could get to a point where you’re like, “Okay, give me a preview of what your financial plan would look like for me.” They do that with three different people, the problem is they’re not always comparing apples to apples. Here, again, because of incentive structures, you could interview one financial professional who is a fiduciary but wants to recommend a product that pays them a commission. That could make complete sense for your situation, but it might not be the best solution. Then you go and interview someone else who has different incentive structures and they have a completely different set of recommendations or view of your situation.

Now, you have these two expert opinions that have fairly different advice structures around them, and it’s hard to parse out what is the right answer. So, you are basically back at square one. You came into this saying, “I need a professional set of eyes, I need guidance.” But then you go to these interviews and now you have potentially three compelling solutions for you, but you don’t know how to pick from those, and there’s no financial planner, for financial planning sake, to help pick through all of that. I think, while it’s important to interview multiple people and it’s important to ask about cost structure, one of the things that you should really keep in mind is, is this addressing salient questions to my unique circumstance, and do they have a track record of being able to give advice related to that, that has value? That should help parse out all of the different potential solutions that are available to you.

Brokamp: A couple of other things to think about is basically to check into their history to some degree. That depends a little bit on what kind of advisor they are and if they have any designation. If they are a broker, you can check with FINRA’s broker checks, FINRA, standing for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, just Google it. If they’re an independent advisor, the SEC has the independent advisor public disclosure database. You’ll get some information about them. It’s the disclosures you want to look at, and the disclosures will include everything from bankruptcies to customer complaints. Now, if they’ve been in the industry for a long enough time, they’ll have complaints. What you want to see is whether they’ve been resolved satisfactorily or not. If they have any designation like CFP, CFA, CPA, you can go to the websites of those organizations and then make sure that those people actually have those designations because there’s plenty of examples of people saying they are something CFP or attorney, all kinds of things, insurance agent, but they’re actually not, they just had these letters, I think, because they figured no one’s going to check up on them. Any other questions that people should ask once they are meeting with people and deciding on which planner to choose?

Gates: Yes, I think, and this is all a little bit circular, but I think when you ask about cost structure, we can probably go through like a pro, con of each way that advisors charge. If a planner charges hourly, the pros of that are you’re probably going to get a very cost-effective plan because it doesn’t ultimately take that long to do that upfront work of a plan. You can get good answers and good guidance for a reasonable cost, and you’re probably not going to get screwed because they are just charging you by the hour. The con for hourly planning is they may linger a bit on certain topic areas, but then once you get the initial recommendations, there’s the implementation phase of the plan. That’s actually a huge part of financial planning is annual reviews or semi-annual reviews to make sure that you’re on track with what you thought you would do. The planner should be helpful in that regard. But a lot of hourly planners don’t do that because it’s an upfront consideration. Then you can move down to assets under management fees.

The pros of an assets under management fee is there’s a very tight correlation between your money and its contribution to achieving your goals, and because they manage your money, and if you leave them, they no longer are paid based on the money that they’re collecting a fee on, so they’re motivated to keep a relationship management structure in place. The likelihood that they’re going to implement and enact steps to your financial plan are higher. The cons of that business model are the advisors you’re getting are likely to want more of your assets over to them, or if you have a home mortgage to pay off, they might not give you the perfect answer on that. Then there’s just the straight-up either a one-time lump or even commission-based structure. Those cons are obviously incentives. I will say pros to commission-based offerings are they typically have the best product. There are times when having the right financial product for your situation can be a very good thing.

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In my role, because I’m not commission-based, I don’t have a library of products that I can go to if you have a situation that might warrant one. In the most crystal example, if an annuity was the right situation and we’re not huge fans of annuities here, but if it was a good solution for you, I’d have to go do some research on what the current annuity offerings are, I’d have to analyze the fee structure, I’m not incented to do that necessarily because I don’t get paid on it. You just might not get the right products. That’s a pro of commission-based solutions. Just comprehensively thinking through those, I think would be helpful. But back to the implementation of things, that is a very critical part. You should be asking, “Hey, what is your client relationship model? How often do we meet? If I’m off track, what do we do? How do we evaluate being on track? Is it an asset-based goal? Is it an accomplishment goal? Is it a value goal?” I think that’s a very important question to keep in mind.

Brokamp: I go to conferences all the time of financial planners and many of the folks who just do hourly or project-based will tell me how they put a lot of time and effort into a written financial plan, hand it over to the client, meet with the client a year later and the client said, “Yeah, I never got around to doing any of the things you told me to do.” We’re starting at square one all over again. Another question I think is important to know is, do you work with people like me? I actually recently got an email from a Motley Fool reader who has a big real estate portfolio. I think you would want to work with a professional tax or Financial Planner who knows what it’s like to manage real estate because that can be very specialized. That’s the stuff on financial planning.

I do want to end with some other types of financial assistance that people may be looking for. One is estate planning. We generally feel at The Motley Fool that estate planning is not something to do on your own. It is worthwhile to get a qualified attorney. It is another place where you can ask for referrals. You do want to get someone who specializes in estate planning, not just any old attorney. One place to look for attorneys is the website at the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and you’ll see if someone is in your area who specializes in estate planning. Another resource that you don’t hear that much about. But I think what is actually really interesting is the American Association of Daily Money Managers. These are folks who do the nitty-gritty of finances. If you need that help, they will help you create a budget. They’ll pay your bills. They’ll monitor your bills. A lot of people use daily money managers for coaching services. These folks don’t call themselves financial planners, but they do help people stay on track, or they help elderly folks with their finances.

Let’s say your parents are having trouble with their finances, they need someone to help just paying the bills, and monitoring things. They also will help you set up, by the way, if you love the idea of personal capital or mentor something like that, but don’t want to go through the hassle of setting that up. They’ll set you up on personal finance software. Anyways, you can just go to the website of the American Association of Daily Money Managers and see who is in your area there. Then there’s tax help. Of course, there’s CPAs, but a lot of people don’t know that some CPAs have something called the personal financial specialists designation, which is like being a financial planner with tax expertise and then there’s the enrolled agents, and Sean, if I remember correctly, you’re an enrolled agent.

Gates: I am.

Brokamp: Enrolled agents, they can do your tax return, right? I’m curious why we don’t hear more about enrolled agents. Everyone thinks of CPAs but enrolled agents have gone through the classes and passed the exams as well, correct?

Gates: Yeah, that’s right. I took an exam directly from the IRS. I would say the quick bullet points on enrolled agents is it’s actually more relevant to personal financial advice than something like the CPA. The CPA has a lot of business and international accounting rules associated with it you have to know. The enrolled agent is really how you fill out tax returns for individuals, sole proprietors, partnerships. But yeah, I mean, I theoretically could file taxes on behalf of other people. I actually can even represent them in tax court, should they be audited. I have never done that because my business would frown on me for doing that.

Brokamp: Before we go, I just have one final resource for people to look into. Many people have an employee assistance program at work. It’s called an EAP. Many of them offer some sort of financial assistance. Just an example, the EAP at The Motley Fool, they will put you in touch with a financial planner in your area and you get one free hour and then they either answer your one or two questions that you have and you’re done or if the financial planner decides that you need a more comprehensive plan or something, you get a discount on the plan. Also, our EAP offers free access to software to do a will. Not that I would recommend that, but just an example of the type of financial benefits that many EAPs offer. I feel like EAPs are one of those things that many businesses offer, but most people don’t know about. It’s just something else to look at if one is offered at your office. Sean, any final thoughts on what people should do and think about when it comes to finding financial help?

Gates: Yes. Very related to what you just described on the EAP, you can’t contact your employee benefits department because a lot of times the plan administrator or the human resources department, especially if you work for a large organization, will have complementary financial planning as part of it. If you have, I’ve run into this. I think Google’s 401(k) provider does have some financial planners that they have available through the 401(k) provisioning that their employees can call and get access to. Now, sometimes, it’s relegated to only a subset of the employee base, so you might have to be a highly compensated employee or an executive. It’s like an executive benefit, but that’s becoming more common to offer to all employees of your organization. That’s another good place to check if you have access to financial planning and you want a second set of eyes.

The other thing that I’ll mention is just one of the questions that we said would be important to ask for a financial planner is, do you work with folks in my situation? You can think of your profession as a very good one. Bro, you mentioned real estate. If you have a very large real estate portfolio, perhaps seek out a financial professional who’s experienced with real estate. Dentists. Dentists have a very common set of problems. They typically either lease or own the building that they operate out of and that has a whole sense of implications for their personal financial situation. Airline pilots, they have very strong pensions, but they have gone bankrupt in the past. There’s just a lot of unique things related to your cohort or your peers and so think of that as a way to ask questions of the financial planner, “Hey, have you ever dealt with dentists before? If so, what does that mean for my circumstances, etc?”

Another good example, I speak with retired military, government employees. They have their own unique set of benefits, pastors and priests, they have their own set of benefits. So just a lot of unique, interesting financial planning implications that could add up to a significant amount of value to you. But most financial planners are generalists and they won’t even know about these things and so even if they are CFP, they won’t know that if you have a 403(b) through your Presbyterian, or a plan provider, that you can do a parsonage allowance after you’re retired and that’s very specific insight, baseball, but it just gives you a sense of what can be missing from the conversation.

Brokamp: That is an excellent point. Sean, thanks again for joining us.

Gates: It’s always my pleasure.

Brokamp: As a father of a three-month old, go get some sleep.

Gates: Thanks.

Southwick: That’s the show, it’s edited professionally by Rick Engdahl. Our email is For Robert Brokamp, I’m Alison Southwick, Fool on, everybody. Do I say “Stay Foolish” or “Fool on?”

Brokamp: You just say “Stay Foolish.”

Southwick: That’s what I thought. And stay Foolish!

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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