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It’s no secret that a lot of Americans worry about retirement.
But a new retirement study commissioned by Ramsey Solutions shows getting professional help can be a big-time confidence boost: Americans who work with a pro are nearly twice as likely as those who don’t to say they are very confident they’ll have enough money to retire.
If you’ve never sat down with a pro before, that first step can feel intimidating. We talked to Chadd Hoeft and Justin Widick, investing professionals from Omaha, Nebraska, to find out what you can expect and how to prepare for the first meeting.
Do This First
After you schedule your first appointment, you’ve got some homework to do. Don’t worry; it’s a team assignment. Simply sit down with your spouse and discuss your future together.
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Coming to the table with a clear set of shared goals makes it easer to figure out which direction is right for you. Here are a few questions to get the conversation started:
- When would you like to retire?
- What does your dream retirement look like?
- Do you plan to work in retirement?
- How will you fund your kids’ college education?
- Who will your beneficiaries be?
A lot of people have an idea of what retirement means individually but they haven’t talked about it together.
Justin Widick, Investing Professional
Think of Your First Meeting as a Get-Acquainted Session
Your investing pro can’t help you reach your retirement goal if they don’t know where the starting line is or what hurdles you’ll need to clear to get there.
That’s why it’s important to come prepared with recent financial statements. “As much information as they can bring, the better,” Chadd says. Your pro can give you specific guidance on what documents to bring, but paperwork may include:
- 401(k) and other investment plan statements
- Mortgage and other debt statements
- Pay stubs for you and/or your spouse
- Your most recent tax return
Of course, don’t look at this first meeting as a one-way conversation. “It’s also an opportunity to determine whether the professional is a good fit for you,” Justin says.
Pay attention to the service you receive from the rest of the staff too. You should feel comfortable with everyone you interact with, from the front desk to the pro’s office.
All we have is a notepad in front of us for that first meeting so we can take notes and get to know the client.
Chadd Hoeft, Investing Professional
Come Ready to Learn
You should never invest in anything you don’t understand. So don’t expect to make big decisions the first time you sit down with a pro. You’ve got some learning to do first!
Chadd spends the first meeting educating his clients. “When they walk away from the first appointment, I feel like they have a good idea of how the different types of investments work and how that’s going to fit into their family’s position,” he says.
Be sure to ask your investing professional to explain how they get paid. Some are fee-based while others charge commission. There are pros and cons to each approach. An honest professional will spell those out for you so you can make the best decision with your money.
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Most pros don’t charge an hourly rate for consultations. They’re either compensated by a one-time commission or an annual maintenance fee.
What Happens Next?
By the end of the first meeting, you should be able to reiterate everything you discussed with your professional. “We always summarize what the next step should be to make sure we’re on the same page going into the second meeting,” Chadd says.
You can expect things to get more tactical in the second and sometimes third meetings. “We get into specific recommendations, which entails funds and fees as well as potential costs and risks associated with them,” Justin says.
Plan on coming back for annual check-ins. That gives you and your investing pro a chance to review your investments together to ensure they’re performing as expected and you’re making progress toward your goal.
Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back
Everyone wants a future they can look forward to. But it’s easy to let negative emotions—like guilt, shame or stress—keep you from getting the help you need.
A good investing pro won’t use past mistakes to motivate you. “A lot of people have anxiety about the fact they haven’t done enough,” Justin says. “Certainly, we want to learn and grow from that, but we’re going to look forward and not worry about the things we didn’t do 20 years ago.”
Want to stop worrying about your future and start doing something about it? Try SmartVestor! It’s a free and easy way to find investing pros in your area.