Dec 19 / Jay Zigmont, PhD, MBA, CFP®

When Should I Ask for Financial Help?

It's possible that you've never consulted with a professional about your finances before. So how can you tell when it's time to ask for help with money matters? If you have to ask, it's probably a good indication that it's time. Keep reading to learn a few instances when it pays to get a professional to look over your finances.

You're not making progress (or you're going backwards)

Improving your finances is a journey, rather than a destination. But you should still be seeing progress towards your goals over time. This could look like paying off debt (perhaps in the form of student loans or credit card balances), saving money to buy a home or invest for retirement, and finding ways to use your money to improve your life. If you're stagnating, it's worth meeting with a professional to find ways to get back on track. 

If you're going backwards with your goals (perhaps your credit card debt is out of control, or you have no idea where to start saving for a home or opening a retirement account), definitely ask for help. Unfortunately, good help is likely to cost you a bit of money, which isn't ideal if you're broke or struggling with debt. But if you don't get the help, you're likely to end up worse off financially.

You need tax help

If your problem is with taxes (such as lowering your tax liability, or figuring out how to handle taxes on your investments), you should absolutely consult with a professional. The IRS does not mess around, and talking to a tax professional can give you someone to file your tax returns, answer your questions, and face off with the IRS as your representative if necessary.

You're feeling overwhelmed by money

If your small business is taking off and you're earning a lot of money and are unsure how to make the most of it, consult with a professional. Maybe you came into an inheritance or other windfall, and you want to use it to accomplish your goals, or invest it, or otherwise capitalize on money you didn't have before. If your financial situation is overwhelming, even in a good way, a professional can help.

Who should you talk to?

When it comes to financial help, you have a lot of options. A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ can help you with a wide range of money issues and topics, but their help usually doesn't come cheap. Financial coaches are often less costly, but they don't need to have any kind of established certification to call themselves a coach. You can hire a CPA (certified public accountant) to help you with taxes, but there are also lower levels of tax preparers who might be a good choice if you just need someone to file your taxes for you. If you're struggling with debt, you might consult with a nonprofit credit counseling service. Depending on your situation, you may need to assemble a team of legal and financial helpers.

How often should you meet with a helper?

This depends on whether your needs are ongoing or you just need a little financial tune-up. If you need someone to go over your budget and offer suggestions for ways you can cut your spending to send more money to pay off your debts, meeting with a CFP® professional once or twice might be sufficient. But if you're a small business owner or have a complicated tax situation, you might want to meet regularly (perhaps monthly) with a financial professional to help you keep the money straight. 

If you have to ask, "Do I need financial help?," it's likely you do. The time to act is now, because the sooner you get assistance with your finances, the sooner you can address your problem and the better off you'll be.
Jay Zigmont, PhD, MBA, CFP® is the Founder of Childfree Wealth, a life and financial planning firm dedicated to helping Childfree and Permanently Childless people. Dr. Jay is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Childfree Wealth Specialist, and author of the book “Portraits of Childfree Wealth.” Dr Jay is the co-host of the Childfree Wealth Podcast. His Ph.D. is in Adult Learning from the University of Connecticut.

He has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, and many other publications.