I met with a financial advisor a few years ago at the bank I had my student loan with (not RBC). It was not a pleasant experience. The advisor wasn’t really listening to me as a fresh-out-of-university kid with goals: pay off the loan, save up for a house. He had goals too: sell me bank products I didn’t need.
Understandably, I was a little bit hesitant to meet with another financial advisor. Then, the company I work for offered a free consultation with an independent group (i.e., not affiliated with a particular bank) so I decided to go for it.
What a difference!
It was a pleasant meeting and it was about me and my goals and my circumstances. I came prepared with budgets, printouts on my mortgage and my loan, my (small) investment portfolio, and other relevant information. And we spent an hour going over it, looking at interest rates, discussing how I should best allocate the funds from each paycheque, and what my priorities should be.
Sometimes we are too close to our own finances and our own ways of doing things. An outsider’s perspective can be really helpful. I learned a few things, but most of all, I also received validation that I am on the right track with my money. The biggest surprise to me was his thoughts on the double-up contributions that I make to my mortgage. “I am doing great things here!” I thought. “I am cutting 4 years off my mortgage by putting more money towards it every month, even though the interest rate is really low.” I thought for sure he’d suggest that I put this money towards my loan instead, but no: he thought I should invest it, and then use the returns to pay off the mortgage a few years down the road – something I had not even considered, but that makes a lot of sense.
Good advice is only good advice if it fits your situation. My previous experience with a financial advisor had been more about getting me to sign up for stuff than about helping me reach my goals. This time, I received an impartial view of my finances that made me consider options I hadn’t considered before. They seem obvious now that they have been pointed out to me. That alone was worth my time (especially since I wasn’t the one paying for the session).
HSBC did a study in 2011 that showed that people with solid financial plans saved over 250% more towards their retirement than those that didn’t. 250%! A financial advisor can help you shape this plan and make it work for you so you’re not flailing around helplessly wondering what to do with your money. You can read books, blogs, and news articles until the cows come home, but one hour with a financial advisor could help you nail down the best options for your savings and investments.
Financial advisors are not just for lottery winners and millionaires. They can be helpful for anyone with a financial goal by offering an outside view of your finances to help you to make sure you aren’t missing any opportunities for investment or savings. If Googling answers to your questions is making your head spin, a good financial advisor can answer your questions as they relate to your specific situation.
If your company is like mine and offers an hour with a financial advisor as a perk of being their desk-slave, then you would be silly not to jump on the opportunity to get some advice on your finances. Even without someone else paying for it, using a financial advisor seems to be well worth the investment if you can find the right one. Here is a good article with some tips on finding someone that suits your goals and risk tolerance, as well as red flags to watch out for when interviewing a financial advisor. It is important to make sure you are dealing with someone you are comfortable with, especially if you decide to invest through them, and not to feel pressured to purchase their services just because they answered your questions. Get all the information you need and make smart, informed decisions based on your money and your needs.