The Star Democrat

Financial Planners 101

- MARY HUNT

Anyone can call him or herself a financial planner. If you are ready to seek the services of a profession­al financial planner and avoid an amateur, you want one who has earned the special credential­s of chartered financial consultant (ChFC) or certified financial planner (CFP).

These profession­als make a comprehens­ive analysis of your entire financial life, help you identify your goals and then create an investment and insurance strategy to achieve those goals. Estate planning is often offered by a credential­ed financial planner and includes wills, trusts, taxplannin­g, legacy and endof-life planning.

A financial coach is an adviser who can help you reach your financial goals by teaching you money management skills, such as how to build savings or pay down debt. A financial coach can help improve your financial literacy but cannot give you specific investment advice.

Theoretica­lly, everyone can use the services of a financial planner at some point in their financial journey. But certainly not until one is free of credit-card debt and other unsecured debt.

A qualified counseling organizati­on, such as the National Federation for Credit Counseling (NFCC. org; 800-366-2732), goes to your creditors on your behalf to create a payment plan you can afford.You will receive education to make sure that you do not return to debt once you’re out of it.

Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCh­eapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “DebtProof Living.”

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