Can You Trust Retirement Planners?

Most of us have probably heard the horror stories about incompetent or crooked retirement, financial and estate planners. Many people have lost all or part of their retirement nest egg to bad retirement planning or worse professional fraudsters masquerading as retirement planners. Not surprisingly many persons approaching retirement ask if they can trust retirement planners.

The answer to this question is an obvious one: there are many excellent retirement planners that you can trust. Unfortunately there are also corrupt and incompetent planners that you should avoid like the plague. Therefore anybody in need of such planning expertise should learn to tell the difference between the two.

Conflicts of Interest and Lack of Expertise

The worst abuses in both retirement planning and financial advice occur when the so-called advisor is actually a salesman. There are many individuals that call themselves financial advisors who really make their living selling insurance, annuities, stock, mutual funds and investments.

The conflict of interest with these people is obvious they only make money when you buy something. Their focus is often on pushing whatever product they happen to be selling this week rather than giving you sound financial advice. To make matters worse many experts are most likely to recommend those investments they receive the highest commissions from not what is best for you.


Another problem is that some of these people may have little or no knowledge or expertise outside of investments or the particular investments they sell. There are excellent insurance salesmen and brokers that cannot bounce their own checking accounts. You obviously want to get financial advice from somebody who looks at the big picture not just investments.

Pay for Retirement Planning and Financial Advice

The best way to avoid the conflicts of interest and to get sound financial advice is to pay for it. There are many experts that provide this kind of advice out there including financial planners, financial advisors, wealth managers, accounts and attorneys.

Before paying you should conduct some research and find out what kind of retirement planning is appropriate in your situation. If you just need advice with investments or savings arrangements a certified financial planner or retirement planner could help. If you need to plan your estate you may need to speak to a probate attorney that has knowledge of the laws concerning inheritance in your state.

Take Advantage of Different Areas of Expertise

There are also many cases when a couple planning for retirement may need to work with more than one expert. A couple with a high income may need to speak to a retirement planner, a tax attorney and perhaps a probate attorney.

Many people get themselves into trouble by assuming that their retirement planner knows about taxes or probate law or that their accountant understands investments. This may not be the case there are competent accountants and planners that know nothing about taxes. A good tax attorney on the other hand may not understand the first thing about investments.

Something to remember is that experts and planners often learn just enough to be dangerous about a subject. They accumulate some superficial knowledge but they may not really understand what they are taking about. A retirement planner could memorize some basic information about the IRS code but not understand its implications.

Therefore it is often a good idea to get a second opinion about planning advice particularly if it contradicts what you’ve heard in the past. Asking a tax attorney or a probate attorney to look over a retirement plan or an estate plan is always a good idea. Having a new planner review an older retirement plan after a few years is also a good idea.

Finally never be afraid to ask questions and conduct your own research. If a planner makes a recommendation that seems questionable to you look into it. Research the topic online, read up on the subject, and get a second opinion from an expert in the field. Always keep this mind; everybody is wrong sooner or later including retirement planners.

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Steven Hart is a freelance writer and a Financial Advisor from Cary, IL. He writes about Annuity topics like Single Premium Immediate Annuities, What is an Annuity, and Current Annuity Rates.Author: Steven Hart