Once you’ve decided to be more proactive about your financial future, one of the first questions you face is whether to do it yourself, or pay somebody else. Even if you manage your own money, which I recommend, you still must decide how to get over the learning curve — where to go for information or advice. Who do you listen to, and who can you trust?
If at all possible, plan to manage your own money. The primary reason to do it yourself is that nobody can care about your savings the way you do. You are the one who traded the days and years to earn it, and only you can truly understand what it’s worth to you. You are committed, you have no other agendas, and you will save money if you do it yourself.
However, even if you learn to manage your own money, you will need the guidance of others, both at the start, while you are learning the basics, and when you encounter complex decisions. So, where do you go? As in most fields, it makes sense to learn from those with experience who have already accomplished what you want to do. That’s one reason I’m writing about my experience in retiring early at CanIRetireYet.com. And by monitoring my site, you’ll find recommendations and links to many of my own most trusted advisors.
But some people simply don’t have the time, or interest, or personality to effectively or safely manage their own money. Or they may want specific advice on major decisions. And everybody must rely on some financial institution to hold their assets and execute their instructions in the market. So where should you turn?
(Note: while I’ve been saving and investing for several decades, my experience is far from comprehensive. My recommendations here are generally based on personal experience. There may be equally good or better options of which I’m unaware. But these are the ones I can recommend with confidence.)
- Keep an emergency fund of between 3-12 months living expenses in an easily-accessible savings or money market account.
- If you don’t already have a trustworthy investment account, go online and open an account at either Vanguard or USAA (if you have the military connection to qualify).
- If those companies don’t work for you, or you need additional services, evaluate Schwab or Fidelity for your needs.
- In most cases, keep your significant savings and investments far away from the banks, especially the large, national banks associated with Wall Street.
- If you decide to work with an individual advisor, look for proof that they’ve demonstrated wisdom and prudence about money in their own life!
- Max out retirement account contributions each year, at least to the extent needed to get all company matching funds.
- Above all, get started now: Don’t leave your money unattended for years when it could be hard at work for you!