A few years ago, I
forced gently encouraged my husband to come to a meeting with a financial advisor. Although my husband had a retirement plan through is employer, as a self-employed person, I did not. And because we were relatively young when we got married, I wanted to take advantage of starting saving for retirement early.
Our financial advisor walked us through our options. I have to admit to you that I still can’t exactly tell you how we are saving or the details of what kind of retirement account we have, but I feel a little more secure knowing we have something. And just in case you happen to be like me and get overwhelmed in the financial advisor world (hey, that’s why we have “advisors,” right?), here are five questions that Matt Loverine from the MetLife Premier Client Group in Milwaukee suggests you cover at your next financial check-up.
1. What are the most important items I need to take care of for financial longevity?
Your financial advisor can help meet you where you are at in your financial journey, but in most cases, Loverine says that he recommends starting saving and investing as soon as possible. From there, meeting with your advisor at least once a year can ensure you stay on the right track.
Aside from getting starting with the right investing tools, he also suggests asking your financial advisor what other experts could assist you in staying financially healthy, such as an estate planner or CPA.
“This will help ensure that your complete financial picture is being taken care of,” he explains.
And finally, Loverine recommends that you ask your financial advisor for advice about how and when to start claiming your Social Security benefits.
2. How much would I/we have in a savings account?
“Anywhere from six to 18 months of money that can cover every expense is a good amount,” says Loverine. He also adds that as you build your rainy day fund, also remember to set aside cash (not credit) for extracurricular expenses — a nice dinner out, a weekend trip or even a new TV.
“Be sure to stick to a prudent price limit,” he notes. “Just because you’re budgeting doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself — as long as your finances are on track, it’s okay to indulge a little.”
3. What are my retirement plan options?
“Your employer-sponsored retirement account is traditionally the best place to start, especially if your employer offers matching contributions,” explains Loverine. But once you’ve maxed out your contributions to your employer-sponsored retirement account, it may make sense to explore others, depending on your goals and personal financial situation. It’s never too late to start saving for retirement and as our advisor explained to us, the earlier the better.
4. What should I do if I don’t have an employer retirement account?
“Consider starting an IRA, but be sure to understand which is the right kind for you — traditional or Roth,” says Loverine. “The income from interest, dividends and capital gains can compound tax-free inside IRAs but, consequently, there are limits on the amount of money you can contribute each year. Most people under 50 can contribute no more than $5,000 a year. That figure increases as you grow older.”
He also adds that if one spouse has an employer-sponsored retirement account but the other doesn’t, it may make sense to max out the employer-sponsored retirement account and then have an IRA that both spouses can contribute to.
5. What’s the #1 thing I can do TODAY to get started towards financial health?
“Know where your money is going!” says Loverine. “Make sure you know much income is coming in on a monthly basis and how much of that money is going out in the form of bills and other expenses.” Hmmm…does that sound like a budget to anyone else?
But a budget doesn’t have to be scary.
“Once you’ve figured out where the money is going, you can determine if you’re spending too much and put together a sustainable budget,” he continues. “At that point, you can start either paying down debt or saving the extra monies into your rainy day fund or retirement account.”
Everyone’s situation is different, but speaking to your advisor about a simple step you can take right away could help you get started towards a better financial future.
TapGenes Takeway: Knowing the right questions to ask your financial advisor can help you get started on the path to financial health.
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