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The RetireMentors

Retirement advice from experts in the business

Dec. 24, 2016, 8:04 a.m. EST

25 things you should be getting from your financial advisor

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By Paul A. Merriman

About Paul

Paul Merriman is committed to educating people of all ages to get the most from their retirement investments. Founder of Merriman Wealth Management, a Seattle-based investment advisory firm, he is the author of numerous books on investing: "Financial Fitness Forever," "Live It Up Without Outliving Your Money," and the new "How To Invest" series, free at his website:  "How To Invest" series: "First Time Investor," "Get Smart or Get Screwed: How to Select the Best and Get the Most from Your Financial Advisor" and "101 Investment Decisions Guaranteed to Change Your Financial Future." In his retirement, Paul writes a weekly column at MarketWatch and continues his weekly podcast, Sound Investing, which was recognized by Money magazine as "the best Money Podcast in 2008". He is president of The Merriman Financial Education Foundation and all profits from the sale of his books are used to advance financial literacy. His recommendations for portfolios of Vanguard funds, Fidelity funds and ETFs, podcasts, articles and books are available at paulmerriman.com. Follow Paul on Twitter @SavvyInvestorPM.

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Most millionaires and billionaires wouldn't dream of navigating today's world without getting professional top-notch financial advice. I don't think you should either.

Services that were once limited to people with seven-figure or eight-figure net worth are now readily available — and affordable — even if all you have is $100,000.

Hundreds of thousands of investors — it could be millions — have advisors of one sort or another and still aren't getting the services they should. If your "advisor" is essentially a salesperson, you're probably missing out on some advice that could change your life for the better.

These days, you can (and should) have an advisor who is willing and able to serve as your family's informal Chief Financial Officer. You, of course, will make the decisions (and take the consequences).

Much of your advisor's job will involve your investment portfolio, but his or her duties will go far beyond that, as you will see in the list below.

In this column, I'm going to list a lot of things you should get from a good advisor. Not all will apply to your situation, of course. But if you don't have this "menu of services" available to you, you should ask your advisor why not. Or consider getting a better advisor.

This list is long, and in some cases the details are short. At the end of the column, I'll refer you to a free e-book that will give you more information.

In some items on the list, I have cited a dollar figure for what this service could potentially be worth to you. The figures are of course just very rough estimates, but those estimates were made by several large firms, including Vanguard, Morningstar and Russell Investments. In cases where I have cited "peace of mind," I think the value is somewhere between invaluable and priceless.

Here's the list:

1. Determine the savings rate you need in order to meet your long-term needs.

2. Determine how much risk you should take. Value: peace of mind.

3. Help couples determine how they fit together into a single plan. For example, ensure that everyone is involved in making decisions. Value: peace of mind.

4. Educating your spouse about the most important investment principles and the most important parts of your joint financial plan. Value: peace of mind.

5. Help you determine how much money you’ll need in order to retire and when you can retire. Value: peace of mind.

6. After you retire, help you figure out how much you can/should take out for living expenses, and keep updating the numbers as your circumstances evolve. Value: Potentially prevent you from running out of money; in other words, Priceless.

7. Help you determine what kinds of insurance you need, how much, and the best way to buy coverage at low cost. Value: peace of mind.

8. Help you get the right equity asset classes in your portfolio. Value: Reduce risk and add 1% or more to your returns.

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