Carrie Schwab Pomerantz

Dear Carrie: We are getting older and need help managing our investments. What do you suggest for people in our circumstances? --A Reader

Dear Reader: You're wise to be asking this now because, as much as we don't like to think about it, the older we get the more likely it is that we'll need help managing our finances. In fact, a study out of Texas Tech University last year measured how our knowledge of the basic concepts needed to make good financial choices changes as we age. It found that financial literacy scores declined by about 2 percent a year after age 60. Considering that the most recent Survey of Consumer Finances estimates that over 50 percent of the national wealth is controlled by people over 60 -- now about 12 percent of the population -- there are probably a lot of folks who could use some financial management assistance.

The first and hardest step is to acknowledge that you need help. You've done that already, so you're on the right path. Now you just need to look at your options. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to get financial advice.


You could start by talking to an adult child or other relative who has investment knowledge and would be willing to look at your financial picture with you. Sometimes it just takes another perspective to help you feel more in control. Someone who's close to you and whom you trust could help you review your current investments to see if they're appropriate for your life stage. Or perhaps you just need someone to periodically look over account statements with you and help you stay on top of everything.


If your financial situation is complicated or your assets are substantial, it's probably better to have a professional financial advisor. Advisors offer a wide range of services, from one-time consultations to periodic check-ins to complete hands-on management. The type of service that's right for you depends on the amount of your assets, your knowledge of investing and your feelings about financial control.

If you just want someone to review your portfolio with you and make suggestions, an advisor who will meet with you quarterly or every six months could be adequate. However, if you want someone to actively manage your investments, you should look for an advisor who will create a plan for you and then carry it out.

Another option is a Certified Financial Planner (tm) professional who can advise you on aspects of your financial life beyond your portfolio, including things like tax planning, estate planning or insurance.


Carrie Schwab Pomerantz

Carrie Schwab Pomerantz is a Motley Fool contributor.

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