Last week ScrapperMom and I had an interview with a financial planner. I have written before about using a financial planner and really didn’t think highly of the idea. So how did we end up in this guy’s office? Let’s back up a bit:
A couple of years back we discovered a brew-your-own beer place about 45 minutes from our house called Deja Brew. You go in, pick a recipe out of a big book, assemble your ingredients, grind your barley, boil your wort, add your hops, cool things off, add your yeast, and put your soon-to-be-delicious-goodness in a storage container. The process takes about 2 hours, makes a half barrel worth (15.5 gallons), and you pay depending on the recipe (different amounts of different kinds of barleys cost more or less). Two weeks later you come back and bottle your beer. The whole process is not exactly cheaper than the local package store, but it’s a whole lot more fun.
Anyway, on the counter near the door was a fishbowl that said, “Drop in your business card, and you could win a free batch of beer.” So drop my card I did, and forgot all about it. About 6 months later, the phone rang saying that I had “won”. All I had to do to claim my beer was to assemble 6 to 10 friends to join me in brewing, and sit through a 10 minute presentation given by this financial planner. Assemble I did, and free beer did we get.
After the brewing session, the guy started calling me. Repeatedly. Caller ID came through for me and I avoided answering — for more than 2 months of approximately weekly calls. Finally, I broke down and answered the phone. At the conclusion of the call, I had agreed to meet him at his office to discuss our finances and what we would like to work on for improving them. Salesmen can be persistent, and on some level I felt like we at least owed this guy a listen after he bought us a keg’s worth of beer.
So last Tuesday night, ScrapperMom, Daughter #1, and I sat down for a little over an hour with Mr. Financial Planner. We discussed a lot of topics. He quoted a lot of statistics and figures about what people should do versus what they actually do. He introduced a couple of concepts with which I was not previously familiar. I gave him the rundown on our whole financial situation, and discussed near and long term goals. At the end of the discussion the hammer fell: He asked for $500 to be my “Chief Financial Officer” (as he described it) for the next year. He would consider our goals and put together a plan that we could accept or reject. If we rejected he would make additional suggestions. We would talk monthly by phone and quarterly in person to assess progress. At the end of the year we would have a full review to decide if we want to do it again.
I have to admit to being tempted by the pitch and the offer. It would be a relief to have at least some of our financial planning burden lifted off of our shoulders. On the other hand, I’m not really sure if I can justify $500 in either return on investment or opportunity cost. ScrapperMom and I are also engineers, and by nature we analyze EVERYTHING to the nth degree. So I’m not even sure that having a FP would even save us any time, since whatever he recommended we’d want to go out and research ourselves anyway. Ultimately the primary issue is one of trust: Do I trust a total stranger to do a better job of managing OUR money than we can do ourselves? At this point, I don’t think so.
I did learn a few things that bear further exploration. First, I learned that we should be trying to split our savings in a 30/40/30 ratio between money that can be taxed now (CDs, Money Market, other taxable investments), things that can be taxed in the future (401k, IRAs, etc.) and things that can never be taxed (Roth IRA, tax free bonds, etc.). I also learned that, according to this FP, we are doing better than 90% of the people he deals with on a first meeting in terms of having our ducks in a row. I also got another vote for slowing our paydown of low interest debts in favor of building up the 30/40/30 (which currently looks like 16/76/8) savings. This is in line with what we had planned to do anyway, just not necessarily in the ratio suggested.
At this point, I think we have pretty much decided that we will stick to doing our own planning. We’ll still use outside help in the form of books from the library and ideas bounced around on other Personal Finance Blogs and forums, as well as here at this site. I think the toughest part will be trying to get this guy to stop calling. And in case you’re wondering, YES, all of this was worth the free Chocolate Cream Stout!
If you ever end up sitting down with a financial planner, take a look at this site for some great questions to ask:
Do you have any experience with a financial planner? Was it a good experience or a bad one? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below, or click here if you’re reading via email.