I’m 56 and plan to retire at 62. I’ll have both a state retirement plan and Social Security — but I also have a child starting college, which I want to pay for. Do I need professional help?

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Question: I am 56 and work for a state university, so I will have a state retirement plan. I worked full time and contributed to Social Security for 20 years. I still work part time and contribute to Social Security. I’m planning to retire in six years when I’m 62 years old, and recently I started working with a big bank, but I don’t like their service. I have a child starting college this year and I need to know if I should hire a financial advisor and how they can help me navigate paying for college. (Looking for a financial advisor too? This tool can help match you with an advisor who can meet your needs.)

Answer: Juggling retirement and college tuition is often stressful. Hiring a financial advisor is certainly worth looking into – especially since many advisors will provide a free consultation to see if they can help you and if they’re a good fit. That said, hiring the right one is essential, and you may not need one at all. Here’s what you need to know.

First, let’s explore what a financial advisor can help you with and how to find a good one. In addition to investment and retirement advice, many of them can help you explore how much and how you might pay for college. (Remember: If you’re not fully prepared to fund your own retirement, you’ll want to limit the amount you pay for college; your child may get student loans.)

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“Since you wait until before the start of college to do your planning, your options are limited. You’ll want to know your budget, determine how much money comes out of your savings each year, find out if you qualify for any education tax credits and decide whether to borrow money for college and if so, how much,” it says. certified financial planner Ann Garcia, author of How to Pay for College. These are things an advisor can help with, if you go down that road. (Looking for a financial advisor? This tool can help match you with an advisor that may meet your needs.)

An advisor can also look at how best to add to and strengthen your retirement savings — while balancing your desire to pay for college. In addition, “they may be able to help uncover things you didn’t know about or opportunities like the 403(b) program and the effect of a public service retirement on your Social Security benefits like the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). ), if that applies to you,” adds Joshua Flatley, certified financial planner at X Vector. (WEP changes the way Social Security benefits are calculated and may reduce retirement or disability benefits if a pension is received.)

In addition, a good financial advisor will examine the impact of your retirement plan, state pension and Social Security on your taxes and “use strategies to minimize the amount of lifetime taxes paid, as well as position your retirement plan to generate the amount you want.retirement income,” says Ivan Havrylyan, certified financial planner at Orbit Financial Planning.

So how do you find the right advisor? First, you’ll want to make sure you’re working with an advisor who has experience helping families navigate paying for college, says Jason Siperstein, certified financial planner at Eliot Rose Wealth Management — as well as extensive retirement planning experience. Some advisors list their areas of expertise or specialty focus on their website, but if you don’t see it spelled out for you, it’s okay to ask them about their experience with certain issues. You can also ask for references and talk to actual people they have helped regarding a specific topic.

Here are 15 questions you should ask any counselor you want to hire, and how to vet the person as well. Consider looking at the National Association of Personal Finance Planners (NAPFA), Garrett Planning Network and XY Planning Network to find advisors with credible designations. (Looking for a financial advisor? This tool can help match you with an advisor who can meet your needs.)

Additionally, while many advisors work on the asset-under-management model, charging you a percentage of your assets to manage your investments for you, in your case, you may want to consider another type of advisor. Indeed, consider an advisory-only financial planner, who will charge you a fixed hourly rate or fixed project rate to advise you on paying for college and preparing for retirement in 6 years. “Advice-only planners will never seek to manage your investment portfolio, and will just focus on planning and stock advice without selling you investment management products or services,” says certified financial planner Kaleb Paddock of Ten Talent Financial Planning.

If you’re interested in saving even more money, you may be able to avoid an advisor altogether. Investor.gov offers free financial planning tools, edX offers a free self-structured college course, Ramsey Solutions has a $129 course with a 14-day free trial that provides money management apps, and a community and nonprofit forum offered by Khan Academy . 9 free personal finance courses.

The advice, recommendations or rankings expressed in this article are those of MarketWatch Picks, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by our trading partners.

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