Financial planning can be the secret to a building a happy life, yet it’s too often treated as just that — a secret. Only 21 states require some kind of personal finance curriculum for high school students and just 25 mandate that students take an economics course. Understanding your money isn’t rocket science, but it’s important to learn the basics.
At the same time, more and more Americans are grappling with stagnant wages, high unemployment and rising cost of living. It’s no wonder so many aren’t saving enough for the basics, like retirement and emergencies, let alone making a clear plan for their future.
“Personal finance is something that should be taught at all levels and all grades,” says Washington, D.C.-based financial planner Alicia R. Hudnett Reiss. “But traditionally people think of a financial planner only when they are going into retirement or are in retirement.”
But the benefits of meeting with a financial planner when you’re young can make a difference. New graduates and people in their early careers should look for financial planning support as soon as they start earning an income, Hudnett Reiss tells CNBC Select.
Even if you’re already well into your career, it’s not too late to talk with a financial expert for help navigating other significant life events, whether that’s changing jobs or saving for your kid’s college tuition.
Here are some of the many occasions when it could be helpful to work with a financial advisor:
- Starting your first job
- Getting engaged or married
- Planning for a baby
- Saving for your child’s education (private K-12 and/or college)
- Switching jobs/careers
- Buying a house
- Losing your job
- Going back to school
- Getting divorced
- Starting a business
- Coming into an inheritance
- Making plans for your estate
- Planning a sabbatical or leave of absence
How to find financial planning help
If any of the above scenarios apply to you, you would probably benefit from speaking to a financial planner or money coach. Thankfully, there are many different services and options for varying income levels and budgets.
Before you look for a financial planner, think about what you really need. If you simply want help with setting goals and making a budget, you can likely find lots of free resources for that. If you want to discuss long-term plans, such as debt payoff, retirement, estate management, life insurance and real estate, a certified financial planner (CFP) is qualified to give comprehensive advice for nearly all of those topics.
To begin your research, look through online directories, such as the CFP Board‘s online database, which lists a number of qualified professionals who work in your area as well as virtually. And before you trust anyone with your goals (not to mention your personal information), use these directories to check their credentials. If a professional claims to have license or certification (often noted with a three-letter designation after their name), make sure they are legitimate by heading to that licensing board’s website and doing a search.
If you’re ready to start investing, it can be good to work with a financial planner who is qualified to give advice about the stock market. A qualified investment advisor must be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and/or Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). (You can use FINRA’s BrokerCheck tool to research this.)
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Keep in mind that, before you venture into investing, you should have an adequate stash of cash to use for short-term needs and wants, including an emergency fund. Most experts advise saving up three to six months’ worth of expenses in an easily-accessible fund so you don’t have to tap into your investments.
CNBC Select recommends using a high-yield savings account so you can earn better than average interest (APY) on your money, but still be able to access it easily if an unexpected expense comes up. Withdrawing money is easy with the Synchrony Bank High Yield Savings account, which has no minimum balance requirement, no monthly fees and a strong APY.
Synchrony Bank High Yield Savings
Information about the Synchrony Bank High Yield Savings has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the bank prior to publication. Synchrony Bank is a Member FDIC.
Annual Percentage Yield (APY)
Up to 6 free withdrawals or transfers per statement cycle
Excessive transactions fee
None, but may result in account closure
Offer checking account?
Offer ATM card?
- Strong APY
- No minimum balance
- No monthly fees
- Up to 6 free withdrawals or transfers per statement cycle
- Easy ATM access
- 1 physical branch (in Bridgewater, New Jersey)
Read More: When Should You Hire a Financial Planner?