Searching for a Financial Advisor

Mike and I have always had a very simple ‘couple’s financial plan’ – pay off the student debt asap while still squirreling away some savings.

It hit me pretty quickly when my work place’s financial rep for retirement plans came that we need to develop a more serious financial plan sooner rather than later. The overall goal remains the same but I think it’s time to make it a little more complicated and formulate some real, tangible goals. So naturally I talked to my sister about it – she is totally obsessed with financial planning these days so I knew she’d have some resources. Here are some things I’m thinking about now that I’m on the prowl for a financial adviser:

1. Creating an actual, numerical, goal for retirement – putting a dollar amount on what I want out of retirement will make it more likely that I will actually achieve it.
A report by HSBC said, Americans with a financial plan have accumulated on average $127,000 in retirement savings vs. $56,000 for the average U.S. household. Non-planners have an average of around $23,000 saved.
Almost 44% of those without a plan associate retirement with financial hardship, while this number is only 19% for those with a plan.

2. I’ve got a lot of questions to ask because anyone can become a financial planner and some of them just want to sell me stuff. Here’s a GREAT read about the top 10 questions you should ask when interviewing financial planners. They include: 
  • How are you compensated? 
  • How do you communicate with clients and what can we receive from you? 
  • Do you have experience working with clients similar to me? 
  • Who will I be dealing with? 
  • What credentials do you hold? 
Interviewing financial planners seems daunting but I know it’s a smart choice for us because we have a lot of questions. Should we be investing money on our own or putting a lot into our 403b? What percent of our income should we put towards debt v. savings? If we want to buy a house, what’s a reasonable mortgage?

Got any tips for the search?  

Love/Hate Relationship

It’s day 2 and I already have a love/hate relationship with my commute and new job. I love my job and hate my commute.

This morning I got up super early (please don’t yell at me if you have a more heinous commute than me and have been doing it for eons), did my morning routine, and went outside for the Baltimore circulator to take me to Penn Station where I grab my commuter train. My circulator bus is the first one that comes in the morning and this was my first time trying to catch the bus (I went in later yesterday so my husband was kind enough to drive me). The sign that tells you how long your wait will be said 25/50 min. Well that wasn’t going to work for me- I had to be AT the train station in 25 minutes, not on my way there.

The walk to the station is about 20/25 minutes and I started it, calling my husband in a huff. OMG, I said, this is gonna SUCK – I did not want my commute to be that much longer even if the walk is better for me. But then, like an angel’s song, I heard the vroom of my bus just as I approached the next bus stop. Perfect timing! So I hopped on and was at the station in time to buy coffee before my train. This morning I caught up on Breaking Bad episode 12 and got halfway through 13. I think my fellow commuters thought I was weird when I would laugh out loud or gasp when something crazy happened. Whatever.

Apparently the mornings are easier – I have my coffee, I’m freshly showered, and ready to dive into some good dramas (tomorrow it will be Heroes Season 2). But my sister was right, winter evenings suck! I didn’t even get home that late last night and I was sooooo over it. Having a commute that is over an hour can just drain you. I did not feel motivated to exercise, cook, or be a fun person – this is clearly going to be hard work.

But this morning, when I got to my job, and had fun work to do – a day full of meetings and tasks, I felt relieved. This is what I’ve been waiting for! Things to keep me busy (and I don’t mean cover letters!!). I don’t think I will ever fall in love with my commute but like my sister told me, it just becomes a thing you do.

To Do: Step 1

I wrote last week about Step 1 – figure out exactly what you want to do; I’m still working on it.

The same friend of Mike’s gave me a disc by Brian Tracy entitled “Goals!” and he speaks entirely about the importance of knowing your goals, writing them down, and doing something every single day to help achieve your goal. One premise of this talk is that circumstances are irrelevant because if you know what you want and you work towards it with fervor, it will happen.

When I first started thinking about this, I was pretty stuck in, “what is the EXACT career goal I have”. Now it’s a little different. My immediate goal is obviously, get a job. But is my long term goal to get X job or to get a job that pays X? These may or may not be mutually exclusive but I think a lot of people battle with this.

This topic is polarizing and I understand why. On the one hand, you’re working to live – you might not LOVE your job but you have more resources to love your life outside of your job. Money can’t buy happiness but it certainly can make it easier (Happiness for me would be having no student debt!). On the other hand – especially as a public health professional – I care about what it is that I do. I want my work to make a difference.

As I think about the goals I have and what it is that I want to start working on each day, I am trying to find a good way to marry job X and salary X.

Mike said to me recently that he could look back to his twenties and see many instances in which he got in his own way, making it more difficult for himself to achieve his goals. I think we do that when we give up, stop looking for work, stop feeling positively about ourselves and our situation, and when we settle. Knowing, writing down, and working towards very concrete goals may be a great way to prevent you from getting in your own way.

How Flexible Should You Be?

The Daily Worth asked how flexible you should be with your job search.

A recent Rutgers survey shows that many unemployed people are uncertain about how much to sacrifice in the name of a paycheck:

65% would take a lower salary
59% would accept a lower-status job
70% would accept a temporary job
Source: Daily Worth (

One thing I really liked about this read was the concept of the “new normal”. This might mean that a less-than-full-time job is your best option. Or that you’ll need multiple streams of income. Before embarking on the job hunt I assumed I would fall into a single full-time job with benefits and pay that would help drastically reduce my college debt. I’m not really sure that’s going to be my normal.

I have applied to jobs with salary ranges that don’t thrill me and titles I thought I could have had with just my Bachelors. Right now my title is Job Hunter and I think lots of things would be better than that so I’ve given myself wiggle room. 

However, as a young professional, I also worry about what my resume is going to look like to prospective employers. The time gap between my last job and future job keeps on growing and I’ve heard that doesn’t look so good. Pursuing work that isn’t in my field may help with my financial situation but what will it do for me in the long run and could it be detrimental? Unclear.