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Dear Liz: How important is it to have a financial planner to help me plan for my retirement? I am 43. I must admit that trusting someone with my life savings is a daunting prospect, although I am also not too financially savvy.

Answer: You don’t have to actually turn your life savings over to an advisor to get sound financial advice. Some fee-only planners charge by the hour to create recommendations for your portfolio, which you can then execute. You can get referrals to these fee-only, hourly planners via the Garrett Planning Network, http://www.garrettplanningnetwork.com.

You have other options, as well. Sites including FinancialEngines.com and ESPlanner.com offer software that can help you create a portfolio. Brokerages and mutual fund companies typically offer advice. Sometimes it’s offered for a flat fee; other times, you pay commissions based on the advisor’s recommendations.

If you educate yourself about investing, you may be able to do an OK job of building a portfolio on your own. But you really should consult an objective, experienced financial planner once you’re within 10 years of retirement. It’s really easy to make mistakes in the years immediately before and after retirement. If the mistakes are bad enough — retiring too soon, withdrawing too much, taking too much or too little risk — you could wind up paying for them for the rest of your life.

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Categories : Q&A, The Basics