People often assume that there is an earnings threshold that you need to meet before consulting an adviser, or that financial advisers only focus on your retirement. In reality, the process of working with an adviser and developing a financial plan can establish a healthy pattern of saving and spending habits that will benefit you when you reach milestones in your life.

People generally think of retirement as the ultimate goal. How much do I have to save so that I can retire? While financial planners do keep their eye on that long-term goal, they often help you set up short-term goals that allow you to stay on track. The process of financial planning provides a way for you to gain control over your assets before you need them.

Financial professionals do many different things. Some will simply run a financial projection to tell you how much money you need to save so that you can retire. Others will just invest your money to grow your assets. A holistic approach to planning will take a comprehensive look at everything that touches your financial life, including reorganizing your debt and spending, adjusting your investments to improve your tax situation, and optimizing your insurance coverages. The goal is to set up your plan properly from the beginning.

An adviser may start with helping you determine how much to save to your 401(k), but he or she will also help you determine the best way to manage retirement investments depending on your spouse’s 401(k) investments. If you’re married, a financial adviser can help you integrate your financial habits, helping couples find common ground regarding saving, spending, and risk tolerance. An adviser can also provide guidance on property ownership that can affect the future sale of that property, divorce proceedings, or the distributions of an estate upon the property owner’s death.

As your family grows, a financial adviser will help you structure your money to accommodate the financial responsibilities of children or other dependents. Adding children or a dependent parent to the household affects the grocery budget, what you set aside for medical expenses, and saving for education. Insurance needs are also at their peak when there are dependents who rely on the salaries coming in to fund their lifestyle.

Financial advisers also provide guidance during the life events that may otherwise derail your comprehensive financial plan. They can guide you through a period of unemployment or career change, the death of a spouse, or divorce. These events will have a financial impact on your savings, taxes, and future investment decisions.

Finally, an adviser can help take the emotion out of investing. When the market is healthy and most investors are bullish, nearly anyone can invest and turn a profit, which can lead investors to believe they have a higher risk tolerance than they do or should. An investor easily can get swept up into chasing returns or making reactive decisions to market movements. A professional adviser can help ensure your portfolio decisions are based on your financial plan and liquidity needs, making changes in gradual steps to spread your risk over time.

William G. Lako, Jr., CFP®, is an Executive in Residence at Kennesaw State University’s Coles College of Business and a principal at Henssler Financial and a co-host on Atlanta’s longest running, most respected financial talk radio show “Money Talks” airing Saturdays at 10 a.m. on AM 920 The Answer. Mr. Lako is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional.

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