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Should I Hire a Financial Advisor or DIY It?

Andrea Coombes

September 15, 2022

If you’re like me, the “DIY or hire a pro” question comes up all the time in life.

With personal finances, for sure it’s possible to DIY it — and there’s no shortage of shiny, snappy TikTok videos by amazingly successful people attesting to that very fact.

That said, there are some really good reasons to call in the experts. Keep in mind, this doesn’t necessarily mean committing to a long-term relationship. You can hire a financial advisor for a one-off financial plan, and then you can take over from there if that's your style (just be sure to revisit that plan regularly).

Here are four situations where it might make sense to hire a pro rather than doing it on your own.

1. You’re not sure what your financial goals even are.

It can be hard in the day-to-day business of life to focus on future goals, and it’s even harder to start taking steps toward those long-term goals. Hey, there’s the day job, friends to visit, that new show to stream. We get it.

One big benefit of working with a financial advisor is that doing so will force you to think about what you want your money to do for you — now and in the future. Do you want to buy a house? Travel the world? Support your child’s art school dreams? Retire early? Eradicate your debt? These are all great goals, but you’ll need to actually take steps to plan for them. A financial advisor can help.

2. You’re not sure what your financial goals even are.

Managing your money on your own means keeping on top of day-to-day expenses and living within your means while also saving for future goals — while doing all of the other things that add up to “living your life.” It’s all too easy to put your money tasks off to some vague future date.

That’s where a financial expert can help. It’s like working with an accountability partner. When you have an upcoming meeting with your advisor, you know you’re going to cross some things off your financial to-do list.

If you DIY it, you’ll have to commit to paying attention over the long haul, and update financial decisions and strategies as your circumstances change. Pro tip: Every time you get a raise, use that as an opportunity to increase how much you’re putting aside for retirement every month.

3. It’s hard to know what we don’t know.

There is a ton of useful personal-finance information online and in books. But we don’t always know what questions to ask or what topic to research. Meeting with a financial advisor can open your eyes to what you don’t know.

Tax planning is just one example of this. A tax expert, such as a CPA or enrolled agent, will have the experience to know if you’re getting all the tax breaks owed to you, and will likely have ideas on how to plan your future financial decisions in a way that minimizes your tax costs.

4. You’re not investing for your future.

If you’re not yet investing, consider hiring hire (seriously! just do it!) a professional to get you started. One simple option if you’re not prepared to dive into the work of finding a financial advisor is to go with a robo-advisor — an online, automated, low-cost option that will make it easy to get started.

Why are we so adamant about investing here at investor.com? Because it is hands-down one of the primary ways to build wealth over time. The younger you start, the easier it is to build wealth — start investing now so you create a situation down the line where you’re able to embrace financial goals you haven’t even dreamed up yet.

Start investing now so you create a situation down the line where you’re able to embrace financial goals you haven’t even dreamed up yet.

DIY or hire a pro?

Here are some hypothetical scenarios to consider when trying to decide whether to DIY it or find a pro:

Taxes

You’re single, you work at one W-2 job, and you feel comfortable using the online tax-software products.

  • Answer: Sure, DIY it!

You have a W-2 job plus you’re building a startup on the side, and you’re fairly certain you have deductible business expenses. Plus, you’re really busy.

  • Answer: This is a good time to call in a pro, such as an enrolled agent.

Investing

You’re contributing 20% of your income to your 401(k) and you know it’s perfectly legit to enroll in a single target-date fund for retirement (because that’s how target-date funds are built: as a one-stop shop). You’ve also got some play money invested directly in some stocks through a brokerage account, and you know that “play money” is equal to “might lose it all” and you’re OK with that.

  • Answer: Sure, keep DIYing it!

You’ve heard about Roth IRAs and want to open one, but you’re not sure how that works, and you don’t know where to start when it comes to investing the money once you open the account.

  • Answer: Opening a Roth is a great goal, and this could be a good time to hire a pro to help you get started — especially if you’re likely to keep putting this off if you don’t get help. One option is a robo-advisor. These are low-cost, automated investment advisors who will help steer your investment decisions based on your risk tolerance. You won’t work with an individual advisor, but a simple online interface will help guide you into becoming a Roth IRA investor.

Paying off debt

You got a little bit over your head in your 20s and racked up some credit card debt (hey, been there, done that). Now you’re older and you know you don’t want to pay double-digit interest rates to those credit card companies. You’re investing in your retirement plan at work, but you’re also paying more than the minimum to your credit card debt every month and you’ve stopped using credit cards for now.

  • Answer: Yay, you! You’re doing a great job. Keep it up, DIYer! (Here’s a great free debt-management tool, if you need some support.)

You know you really need to start getting your debt paid off, but you can’t seem to find any extra money at the end of the month, and all too often you end up relying on your credit cards to cover expenses.

  • Answer: No shame or blame here. Life can get hard. Consider searching for a financial coach or credit counselor to help you get back on your feet. These money experts might be able to help you negotiate lower debt payments as well as provide guidance on managing your monthly expenses.

Next steps

Got questions about working with a financial advisor? We’ve got answers! Explore our complete course:




About the author

Andrea Coombes has 20+ years of experience helping people reach their financial goals. Her personal finance articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, MarketWatch, Forbes, and other publications, and she's shared her expertise on CBS, NPR, “Marketplace,” and more. She’s been a financial coach and certified consumer credit counselor, and is working on becoming a Certified Financial Planner. She knows that owning pets isn’t necessarily the best financial decision; her dog and two cats would argue this point. Read more about Andrea.

About the editor

Carolyn Kimball is Managing Editor for Reink Media Group and the lead editor for content on investor.com. Carolyn has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at major media outlets including NerdWallet, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News. She specializes in coverage of personal financial products and services, wielding her editing skills to clarify complex (some might say befuddling) topics to help consumers make informed decisions about their money. Read more about Carolyn.

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