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Is there a professional that one can go to in order to assess one's current financial situation and get advice and follow-through on what one can do in order to correct financial errors one has made, and to prevent one from making them in the future?

I have looked at what a financial advisor does, and it seems they only manage one's investments. I feel like I know enough about investing that I could do a decent job with it myself, but I would like to get to the point where I can actually save money to make investments (aside from something like a 401k). I have also looked at what a financial planner does, and while this does seem a bit broader, including things like gathering the client's goals and make a plan to achieve it, but I am not sure it includes all the hand-holding that might initially be needed.

A financial counselor seems to have some of the requirement characteristics, such as an object third party authority that one has to be accountable to. This can be helpful for a couple who have (differing) financial quirks as it can be easier in some cases for a spouse to listen to a neutral third party. Or in general, money can be difficult to discuss objectively in a relationship without a third party to mediate and provide advice. Financial counselors also seem to focus more on budgeting. However, financial counselors also seem to be weighted more to helping people get out of debt, and not so much on people who are not in debt but are still having difficulties my themselves and may need some of the services of a planner as well.

And I'm not seeing that any of the above actually provide a lot of advice aside from canned answers. For instance, a financial advisor is going to advise you on specific investments to make. A planner is going to advise you on making a plan and implementing it. A counselor is going to advise you on making a budget. But there are lots of questions that pop up which don't fit into any of these. For instance, "My life insurance raised my rate unexpectedly, what should I do?" or even "I did the wrong thing, how do I recover, and how do I not make that same mistake in the future?" Almost like Money SE, except one who won't close your questions as being off-topic because you are paying them.

Ideally this would be a for-fee professional; I don't want somebody who is trying to sell me a product, just advice. Is there something that combines a financial counselor and a financial planner? Or is there another financial type person who does what I am looking for?

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    Something more "basic" than a financial planner and yet more objective than a spouse? Some people recommend a "responsibility partner", a person who you trust enough to share your budget, and can provide advice and counsel about financial actions. – ChuckCottrill Jan 21 '15 at 0:19
  • @ChuckCottrill got a link for that? Googling for "responsibility partner" turns up a lot of irrelevant stuff... – Michael Jan 21 '15 at 0:28
  • I think a financial planner/advisor/counselor is what you're describing. Exactly what the person's job title is is less important than what that individual is willing to do and how helpful you find them. You should shop around for a financial planner who you can develop a relationship with so that you'll be comfortable asking whatever questions you want. – BrenBarn Jan 21 '15 at 1:36
  • @Michael I have listened to the Dave Ramsey financial peace disks, and they provide both good advice, and allude to this need for someone to advise you. The website LearnVest has also provided some good advice including suggesting finding someone who you can (1) trust, and (2) provide responsible advice. – ChuckCottrill Jan 21 '15 at 15:44
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    Excellent question, because I have realized the need for this role myself. I can find people to help me invest and spend my money, but helping me to budget and save has been (much) harder to find. – ChuckCottrill Jan 21 '15 at 15:51
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Yes, there is a profession that does exactly what you're looking for. It's called a fee-only financial advisor.

These are professionals who (in the United States) enter into a fiduciary relationship with a client, meaning they are legally required to put your financial interests above all other considerations (such as any behind-the-scenes incentives to promote certain products). Between that requirement and the fact that they are paid for their time (and not on commission), they have zero incentive to try to sell you anything that you do not need. Their only job is to help you with your financial situation. (Of course, some of them may be better than others.)

See the profession's website here to find such an advisor near you.

(Credit to Marketplace Money, the old name for Marketplace Weekend, for mentioning fee-only advisors at least 87 times per show.)

  • +1 for Fee only referral. Also, while they will charge you fro their time, they will not spend the whole time trying to steer you into buying mutual funds and/or life insurance. They will actually address your questions. The only downside is that their rates usually reflect the more complex financial situations that make up most of their work. – JAGAnalyst Jan 21 '15 at 19:07
  • I have always heard this term "fee only" and I understand that it's in contrast to someone who works on commission. What I'm not clear about is what kind of fee this is. Is it a flat fee, like per visit? Is it per service offered with varying fees depending on what your needs are? Is it a straight up hourly fee? Or is it based on a percentage of assets unset management? – briantist Jan 22 '15 at 5:28
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    @briantist It is typically an hourly fee. Since a significant portion of the clients who use their services have negative assets (a.k.a. debt), I don't think they'd do very well to charge against "assets under management". :) Check out the website I linked for more info. – dg99 Jan 22 '15 at 14:07
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You know how when people called in on the Car Talk radio show (Click and Clack, I miss those guys), and while the caller asked a question about his car, really he needed marital advice?

And the hosts would pounce on the part about the disagreement with family member and provide an unexpected answer ("Yeah, the trick to a using a clutch is [...], but really, if you want to learn to drive a stick shift, get your dad out of the car!")

So I'm pouncing on the part about the spouse.

It sounds like you and your spouse don't always agree on saving and spending, and you want to find a way to agree on saving and spending.

If you can find a coach or planner or counselor that you both like and both trust, then go for it. You're looking more for the right personality than a precise job description.

Start with exploring what you do agree on: we agree we need to save money, we agree we need to have a spending plan and budget, etc. The right coach will help you get to more agreement -- the job title is less important.

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    You might find that someone with less emotional involvement can bring an objective outlook. Although having a financially responsible spouse is ideal, and the goal the OP should work towards, there may be a shorter term need, and the OP may need to 'learn' how to identify needs vs. wants, manage money, follow a budget and save, and then be more prepared to work with their spouse. – ChuckCottrill Jan 21 '15 at 15:49
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What you are looking for is a Money Coach or a Personal Finance Coach. From mymoneycoach.com:

"Money Coach: Everyone uses money, but few people fully understand how to use it wisely. To be debt free and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle takes special skills. Money coaches provide solutions for household budgeting, investing, using credit wisely, and saving for retirement. With the principles offered by a money coach, you can live the life you want to live."

Usually money coaches or personal finance coaches will not tell you "you should put your money here or there" but instead they will work with you to identify and correct bad money behaviours that affect more than just your investments, and they will not sell you anything.

Maybe you could take a look at some coaches in your area, but a lot of them work via the internet too.

Good luck!

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If you are living near a land-grant university, you might be able to find help from the university's Extension Service. In many land-grant universities (the land grants were given to universities formed for the purpose of improving "agricultural and mechanical arts"), the Extension Services have expanded beyond farm-related services to include horticulture, food and nutrition counseling, consumer finance, money management and budgeting advice etc. See, for example this site.

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In addition to a fee-only advisor, brought up by dg99, you could consider asking your questions on message boards such as Bogleheads.org. I have found the advice amazing, obviously conflict-free, and free.

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