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3 myths about professional financial advice

By Justin Boyle

3 myths about professional financial advice

A lot of people I know are taking steps to get their personal finances under control for the new year. They're trying just about everything, from swearing off credit card spending to keeping tight budgets of entertainment and retail expenses.

No one's given up yet, as far as I've been told, but we are only a little ways into 2012. A recent survey by New York Life indicates that a majority of Americans are setting similar goals for themselves, and that a startlingly small percentage of us seem to know what it takes to succeed.

Save more, spend less: easier said than done?

Consumer confidence in traditional "safety nets" of personal finance, things like retirement accounts and the assured solvency of payroll tax-backed Social Security, has been on a steady decline in recent years. Mark Pfaff, executive vice president of New York Life, tells us that this dip in confidence is causing clients of his firm to express strong desires for individual responsibility in their personal financial situation.

Unfortunately for some, that desire for personal responsibility can cause a certain stubborn resistance to professional advice. The New York Life survey shows that while more than half of respondents report plans to reduce debt and save more in 2012, only 14 percent plan to seek help from financial professionals in doing so.

"Many believe they can go this alone," Pfaff says, "or hide their heads in the sand, [but] the continued economic uncertainties that persist today would be better managed with professional assistance." What's more, previous studies have shown that consumers who accept professional financial advice are more likely to find themselves in favorable personal financial situations.

So why do we tend to shy away from the sort of assistance that can make all the difference? The answers aren't pretty.

Why we don't get help?

There could be any number of reasons why we don't seek help managing our money. Here are a few myths of personal financial assistance that might be helping keep you in debt:

  • Myth: Credit counseling only helps with bankruptcy. Although individuals or businesses tend to take personal finance counseling when considering bankruptcy, it's also available for consumers with their heads still mostly above water. It might be helpful to think of credit counseling as "debt relief assistance," and to think of bankruptcy as just an extreme measure of debt relief.
  • Myth: Financial advisers only work with the super-rich. Anyone who uses money, especially in the form of credit or investment, can benefit from consultation with a financial advisor. Although it seems natural to assume that your debt-to-income situation isn't complex enough to warrant professional advice, financial advisers have seen enough arrangements of financial circumstances to be able to offer insight in nearly all cases.
  • Myth: Personal responsibility requires doing everything yourself. This is perhaps the sneakiest of personal finance myths. We tend to assume that asking for assistance with our financial situation means that we're admitting it's out of our control. The truth is that, with a little help, debt reduction and saving can become easier than ever.

Unexpected factors are one of the main reasons we allow our personal finances to get out of hand. Professional financial assistance can help us prepare to handle these uncertainties, and thereafter give us peace of mind about our strategies for personal financial security.

This year, if simple solutions like micro-saving, an online savings account or zero percent balance transfers don't seem like enough to help you get your finances under control, don't hesitate to look into the options for professional financial help in your area. It might just turn your financial struggle into a financial plan.

 

 

 

Justin Boyle is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas.

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