Common sense tells us to buy clothes that fit, get glasses that are the correct prescription and seek jobs for which we're qualified. And yet many of us are willing to borrow financial advice from other people to avoid paying for professional advice. And that borrowed advice might not be right for us.
This borrowing comes most often in a couple of types.
One of these is getting advice from friends who have a financial planner. Some people will have very similar situations and their financial strategies might be very close to identical. But good financial advice explores the goals, resources and emotions around finances to formulate customized financial plans.
The other type of borrowed advice is from financial gurus who publish books and give talks about financial strategies. Some of these self-proclaimed experts have some good ideas and may give some general advice that's applicable to you. But they don't know you or your personal situation.
It's unwise to assume you're doing the right thing for years only to find out that you missed using some important tactics that would have been easy to implement. Lost time makes getting on track with your health or finances difficult - or impossible.
What factors determine the right approach for you? Age is a major factor, but goals are also important. Perhaps you feel you've found the career of your dreams and plan on working into your 80s. Maybe someone the same age as you wants to work hard for as few years as possible and enjoy an early retirement.
How much you spend, your income, how long you intend to work and how many people depend on your income are factors that can be relatively stable and impact what makes sense to be part of your plan. Your health, whether or not you get injured, whether your job is stable, whether or not you'll inherit money and a long list of other factors can't always be foreseen and can impact your financial strategies. All of these - predictable and unpredictable - are worth exploring, not just borrowing advice from a friend or stranger.
There are several approaches that can get you on the right path - your path, not someone else's.
One is to hire someone on an ongoing basis who takes a proactive approach to planning and is available for questions. Another is to hire a planner for a specific, short-term process and who is available for periodic checkups. You need a high level of confidence that you know when to seek more advice. The last - do your own research and hope you're finding the best information.
Sometimes it's worth spending some money to get you going the right direction.
Linda Leitz is a certified financial planner and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.