Q&A: Should this reluctant retiree pay an advisor?

Dear Liz: I’m about to retire. A friend’s money manager has done well by her, doubling her portfolio in five years. This manager would charge a 1.5% fee to take control of my money, invest it, and generate income to supplement my Social Security. My heart is truly uncomfortable turning over control of my life savings to professional management, even though my head tells me it makes sense. Would a fair compromise between my heart and head be to pay a financial advisor to tell me what to do, but allow me to retain control of my hard earned savings?

Answer: Yes. You may have to search a little harder to find such an advisor, but you could be better off.

First, don’t be too impressed by a manager who doubled a portfolio in the last five years. An investment in a plain vanilla S&P 500 index fund would have performed about as well, at a much lower cost.

Speaking of cost, a 1.5% fee is relatively high for asset management. A 1% fee is much more common. If instead of a money manager you hired a fiduciary, fee-only financial planner — one committed to putting your best interests first — you typically would get comprehensive financial planning advice as well as investment management for that 1%. Such planning could include a tax-smart, sustainable plan for tapping your retirement funds, advice on Social Security claiming strategies, help picking the right Medicare coverage and a review of your estate plan, among other services.

If you’d rather not have someone else manage your portfolio, though, you have other options. The Alliance for Comprehensive Planning (www.acplanners.org) and the XY Planning Network (/www.xyplanningnetwork.com) represent fiduciary, fee-only planners who charge retainer fees. You can find fiduciary, fee-only financial planners who charge by the hour at Garrett Planning Network (www.garrettplanningnetwork.com).

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