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I'm looking for a financial advisor but not someone to tell me about investments. I'm willing to pay for it but I don't want to pay some percentage of my savings/investments. Probably want a fiduciary to the extent that it matters. I would also just generally like help managing my balances across many accounts - for example I've avoided opening a higher interest savings account because it will be one more thing to keep track of and manage the balance of.

I have these kinds of questions (please don’t answer them here - you obviously don’t have the details of my situation):

  • How much cash will I need for the year including expenses, taxes, etc, where should I store that money?
  • What's the most tax efficient way to give to charity, e.g. yearly or every N years
  • How should I budget given my lumpy and unpredictable income?

I don't want to focus on:

  • "put your money in firm's accounts"
  • "invest in these particular stocks/funds/etc"

My whole life I've answered these questions myself with spreadsheets and budgeting software but I would like some help. My tax person can answer some of these questions but doesn't have the full picture or expertise.

6 Answers 6

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You need an accountant, not a financial advisor

Every part of this is exactly what an accountant can do for you.

Some accountants are more used to doing year-end processing and taxes, rather than any ongoing monthly (or weekly) cashflow processing between accounts. This would generally be something that would be farmed out to one of the accountant's admin assistants, because this kind of regular routine work doesn't need their skills. Maybe your "tax person" doesn't have enough people working for them who can do that; but there are accountants (or accounting services) with people who do.

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    @StanH of course they do - that’s exactly what cost accountants do for businesses. Its a common sideline of legal aid services that help people (usually low-income) who are stuck in a debt trap.
    – Dale M
    Jul 19, 2023 at 0:03
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    Accountants are like lawyers in that it's a very large field and they almost always specialize in one particular area. It's all about finding the right one that has the type of skills that you need. I know a few accountants that specialize in retirement/estate planning that regularly do all of the things you listed. That's probably not OP's situation, but such a firm has the skill set and may offer other services.
    – bta
    Jul 19, 2023 at 0:12
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    @DaleM I have never met an accountant who does budgeting work for individuals, but maybe that's a difference in what we're thinking of as an accountant. On the personal side, I'm thinking of tax prep, audit, and tax planning - CPA, EA, tax attorney, or non-credentialed tax preparers. Business cost accounting and budgeting is more corporate finance work and FP&A - CPA, maybe CFA, and a few other designations.
    – Stan H
    Jul 19, 2023 at 1:18
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    @StanH As someone who specialized from "finance and accountancy" to "finance" and holds an accounting certificate, I believe finance and accountancy are mostly neighbouring fields. Jul 19, 2023 at 12:00
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    This makes a lot of sense. I'd love to outsource the tedious management stuff. I don't know why "accountant" didn't occur to me. I'll ask my tax guy what he thinks and check out what else is on offer. Jul 19, 2023 at 13:33
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It sounds like you're looking for an "advice-only" advisor. It's a relatively new term and not regulated (unlike fee-only or fee-based), but these are advisors who do not manage assets and only provide hourly or flat-fee advice on a one-time or ongoing basis.

Flat-fee and hourly advisors still make investment recommendations, so you can request that your advisor doesn't recommend an investment strategy and just takes your strategy as-is when building out your plan. You can also request a limited-scope engagement that explicitly ignores certain aspects of your financial situation (e.g. your investment strategy) and focuses only one specific topics. However, optimizing specific aspects of your financial life in a vacuum could be suboptimal overall.

There are some networks that might be helpful, I believe "Advice Only Network" is the biggest today, but there are definitely others out there. XY Planning Network has a lot of flat-fee/hourly advisors as well, Garrett Planning Network, Fee Only Network, etc... Narrow your searches by looking for "flat-fee", "hourly", or "project-based".

(Full disclosure - I'm a member of XY, NAPFA, and FON)

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A fee-only financial advisor should be happy to talk with you about whatever financial issues you want to talk about. Since they're not paid a commission, they aren't going to need to suggest particular investments to you in order to make money.

Of course, in reality, some of the issues you're concerned about will likely have slightly different answers depending on how your money is invested. If you keep a lot of money in safe, short-term bonds, for example, it might be advantageous to put more of the lumpy income into slightly higher risk investments knowing that you can sell some of these bonds if markets go crazy. If your investments are higher risk, on the other hand, you may want to be more conservative in how that lumpy income gets invested to make sure you can meet expenses.

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    i've had several folks I found through napfa.org tell me they're not a good fit since I don't want ongoing "investment advice". Is there a good keyword for what I'm looking for? Jul 17, 2023 at 17:22
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    @GranBurguesa - I wonder if the issue is your emphasis on what you don't want vs. what you do want. As I said, it is likely to be very difficult to advise on how to budget lumpy income without knowing broadly how your investments are allocated. If you are particularly interested in budgeting and expense help but you're fine with investment advice that supports those goals, that may be something that makes you seem less of a potential headache for an advisor Jul 17, 2023 at 17:55
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    @GranBurguesa "ongoing investment advice" doesn't necessarily mean sales pitches. They may want to ensure that you follow your path and adjust it accordingly as things change, having a quarterly/semi-annual rebalance and recalibration is not unheard of.
    – littleadv
    Jul 17, 2023 at 17:56
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    @GranBurguesa: the thing you have to realize is that while an advisor who earns mone from commissions has a strong incentive to advise you to make high-commission investments, an advisor who is paid by the hour has a strong incentive to advise you more often. That's how they make money. Jul 19, 2023 at 12:21
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I would also strongly recommend working with an accountant. When I had a freelance business (run as a sole-proprietor). I sought and received advice on both business and personal finances. Since my taxes were somewhat complex it helped a great deal to have one point of contact for all financial questions. In the mean time I kept an account at a discount broker and invested in index funds and etfs.

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Generally speaking, financial advisers do not offer such advice. Is there a need for these services? I doubt it. Many people have trouble following basic rule of thumb advice and the ones who don't generally figure it out on their own.

The things you are seeking advice for are variable and thus cannot be predicted. For example advice given on tax strategies may hold true for today, but can change drastically in the future. That future can be as short as policy changes in the current tax year, so you make a plan in July but they were not great come January when it is time to file your taxes.

For my own household I take quarterly snapshots in order to figure out where I am at income tax wise. My goal is not to be exact but +/- $1,500 so I don't owe much or receive "too large" of a refund. It is crazy that I can only get that close but a lot of stuff changes during the year and my household income is mostly constant.

For budgeting for a lumpy income, you can search for this online. But basically you come up with a bare bones need then have a plan for each additional dollar that is received in a month. Some of that plan should be to save for future months. With each extra dollar you save some, spend some, and give some. What those percentages are is your choice.

The difficulty in providing such advice is highlighted by your not wanting to open a high yield account. Many do not see that as an undo burden but you do. That is okay, you are certainly entitled to feel that way. However, if the FA adviser list this as a "must do" you will spend more time butting heads with that person than getting meaningful advice.

IMHO, the advise you seek is heavy on the personal part of "personal finance". You have to decide what is right for you. Be open to suggestions and learn from others but in the end the decision is yours.

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  • To be clear, I have like 15 different accounts. I’m not unable to open another accounts but I’m hesitating because it’s stressful to manage. Jul 18, 2023 at 0:54
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    Why do you have so many accounts? A personal checking and savings, and perhaps a checking and savings for business. That is 4. The savings accounts should be high yield. Add a brokerage account and perhaps a work 401K. Now we have 6. A credit card or two brings the count to 8. What more do you need? Myself I give up a bit of efficiency to simplify my life.
    – Pete B.
    Jul 18, 2023 at 10:56
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    @PeteB. It can add up faster than you might think. I know I'm close to that level, mostly due to retirement accounts from previous employers that can't be combined.
    – bta
    Jul 19, 2023 at 0:31
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    @bta are you in the us? Why can't they be combined? It is one of the first, low priority tasks when I move to a new employer.
    – Pete B.
    Jul 19, 2023 at 16:02
  • @PeteB. Some are pre-tax and some are Roth (thus cannot combine without significant tax penalties), some are ERISA-qualified and some are not (having different levels of legal protections that would be lost when combining), some are considered separable property and some are marital property, etc.
    – bta
    Aug 1, 2023 at 2:34
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I've avoided opening a higher interest savings account because it will be one more thing to keep track of and manage the balance of.

To be quite blunt, the combination of spreadsheets and bank wenb sites makes that pretty easy.

How should I budget given my lumpy and unpredictable income?

For this, at least, you must know what your periodic (monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual) expenses are, then divide by 12.

If your "lumpy and unpredictable income" is greater than the aggregate monthly requirement, put the excess in a savings account. If it's less than your requirements, draw from that savings account.

Really, though, it seems that what you're asking for are the kind of accounting services that Very Rich People get.

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    I don’t think I’m quite into VRP territory but I’m finding myself stressed out about money even though I’m not short on it. I have more spare money than spare time so I think it makes sense to outsource to an expert. Thanks for your thoughts though. Jul 18, 2023 at 0:52
  • To be clear though, I’m not asking for answers to my example questions. I’m looking for someone to discuss the details of my finances with. Jul 18, 2023 at 1:02
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    @GranBurguesa thus the recommendation to see an account, not a financial advisor.
    – RonJohn
    Jul 18, 2023 at 16:04

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