Feel like it’s time to take control of your finances? Where do you even start? And what type of financial expert should you hire? Do you need a CPA and a financial planner? What about a bookkeeper?
There’s a lot to think about! With all the options out there, it can feel overwhelming to even figure out how to get started.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be complicated. In this guide, we’ll go over the people and resources that can help you manage your money. You’ll get all the information you need to figure out which options are right for you and your family.
Different types of financial experts
When you hear “financial expert,” what comes to mind? An accountant sitting in an office staring at a ledger? A famous money personality with books, seminars, and a signature piece of advice? The person who does your taxes? While all of these people could be financial experts, it’s not always clear what they do and or how to choose which one to work with.
Certified Financial Planner™
A CFP® is a trained and certified financial planning professional who is a fiduciary: they work in the client’s best interest. Not all financial professionals are fiduciaries.
For example, an insurance salesperson or investment broker can provide financial advice, but they aren’t legally required to act in the client’s best interest. If you want to make sure you’re getting guidance from a qualified professional who will put your interests first, look for an advisor with a CFP® credential. Some CFP® professionals work at big firms whereas others are self-employed professionals. Choose someone whose values align with yours and who offers customized advice, not a one-size-fits-all plan to “be debt-free” or “make your first million.”
If you don’t have any clear financial goals yet (or aren’t even sure what those look like), you might want to start with a financial coach. These experts can help you figure out what you really want to do with your money.
A financial coach is a great choice if you have a lot of shame or fear surrounding finances or if you feel like you don’t really know what role you want money to play in your life. They can help you identify any mental or emotional blocks that are impacting your money decisions and give you the tools you need to make clear financial goals.
Certified Public Accountant
A CPA is a tax expert. This is who you want to hire for help with your taxes, especially if you have a complicated tax situation. If you’re self-employed or a small business owner, it’s a good idea to have a CPA do your taxes. They can help you figure out your estimated quarterly tax payments and make sure you’re getting all the deductions you qualify for.
A CPA can also help if you’re retired. They can provide strategies for minimizing the amount of taxes you need to pay on your retirement income. Basically, if there’s anything complicated about your income or taxes, it’s best to work with a CPA.
Are you a small business owner? Then you might want to hire a bookkeeper! They can manage the books for your business so you don’t have to. A bookkeeper can also help you analyze your business’s finances so you can figure out how to increase revenue and minimize expenses for a higher profit margin.
Financial tools and resources
Now that you know which expert(s) might be right for your situation, let’s talk about money management tools. If you want to make sure your money is going where you want it to every month, a budget is a great idea. Here are your options:
- Spreadsheets: If you’re looking for a basic, no-frills option, just create a monthly budget in Excel or Google Sheets. There are plenty of templates out there, or you can create your own. All you really need is a way to track and compare your income and expenses.
- Software: If you’re not into spreadsheets or need more functionality than one can provide, consider a software program like QuickBooks. Accounting software is a powerful resource with many benefits, as long as you’re willing to take the time to learn how to use it effectively.
- Apps/other resources: If spreadsheets or QuickBooks aren’t really your thing, use an app, or try a non-digital option! We really like YNAB (You Need a Budget), but there are many other good options out there. Choose one that makes sense to you and that you enjoy using — it’s the best way to ensure that you’ll keep up with your budget.
Spreadsheets, software, and apps are useful once you have a basic idea of how you want to spend, save, invest, and give your money. If you’re not sure about those areas yet, talk with your financial coach or CFP®.
Hiring the right financial expert for your needs
Everyone’s money situation is different, which is why cookie-cutter financial advice isn’t very useful — even if it’s coming from big-name personalities. You need someone who can look at the unique details of your finances and give you customized advice that aligns with your goals and priorities. That’s what a Certified Financial Planner™ does, which is why hiring a CFP® is a great place to start.
Depending on your circumstances, you might also want to work with a CPA, financial coach, or bookkeeper. A CPA specializes in taxes, a coach can help you clarify your goals, and a bookkeeper is a great investment for small business owners.
And then there are apps and tools to consider. Do you want to budget using a spreadsheet? Or would you rather use an app like YNAB?
If you aren’t sure which tool is best for you, start with BudgetingBlocks™. It’s not a boring spreadsheet or complicated app — it’s more like a game! Sit down with your partner and use the blocks to visualize your money and decide where you want it to go. Find out more about BudgetingBlocks™ here!