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Are you feeling flummoxed by financial planning? Does a pit form in your stomach at the words “retirement fund,” “college savings,” or “investing in financial markets”? Have you given up on that dream vacation to France or that beautiful kitchen renovation? Not so fast! The financial gurus from Reliant Investment Management are here to answer your burning financial questions on how to achieve your goals.

We are delighted to introduce our new Q&A series, “Money Moxie,” in which this team of dynamic financial experts cuts through all the dizzying fiscal jargon, clears away the clouds of intimidation and delivers practical answers, showing us that having command of your financial portfolio is absolutely attainable. Let’s get started!

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Susan Logan Huffman (2nd from left) is the founder and principal of Reliant Investment Management, LLC, a female majority owned firm, where she serves as chief investment officer.

With the new year just starting, I have finally resolved to get myself financially organized, but I don’t even know where to begin. What suggestions do you have on what to do first?

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to get organized. Taking the time to get organized will be time well spent. When it comes to finances, the first thing we ask someone when they walk through our door is “Do you know what you have?” We encourage people to sit down and make a list of everything they own. It is completely normal to have accounts at more than one bank or credit card company to spread your risk around, and sometimes it can be hard to remember all of the important details off the top of your head. Keeping a running list makes it easier to know where each account is, how to access each account and who to contact. It also makes it easier to keep up with all your passwords for online access, as you should have a unique password for each account. Having different passwords may seem tedious, but it is necessary to protect yourself in an age of internet hacking and online bank fraud.

financial advisor

Life is filled with unexpected twists and turns like an unexpected death in the family, divorce or health challenges. So, having all of your passwords, financial contacts and legal documents organized ahead of those often stressful life changes is crucial. You’ll thank yourself later!

Once you’ve got your finances organized, it’s equally important to make sure your affairs are in order in case something happens to you. Some things you should consider are whether you need a last will and testament, a power of attorney or a living will. Here are the differences between these types of legal documents:

Last Will and Testament
Usually simply called a will, a last will and testament expressly states your instructions for what is to be done with your property upon your death, and it appoints guardianship for your minor children (and pets!).

Power of Attorney
There are two types of power of attorney documents: a durable power of attorney and a healthcare power of attorney. A durable power of attorney gives your chosen representative — someone you trust, such as a family member or close friend — the ability to act on your behalf should you become unable to communicate your wishes. Likewise, a healthcare power of attorney grants the same powers, but only as it relates to your medical care. You may choose or appoint the same or different people for each of these roles.

Living Will
A living will states your advanced medical directives in the event that you are not able to make your own decisions in a life-threatening situation. For example, a living will gives doctors instructions on how to act in a life-threatening situation based on your predetermined decisions.

RELATED: Susan Logan Huffman, Founder & Principal of Reliant Investment Management: FACES of Memphis

Usually, attorneys can assist you in easily drafting any of these legal documents.

I’ve heard a lot about financial advisors lately, so is this someone who can help me get organized? I’m not sure I even know what they do!

There are many people in the world of finance who call themselves financial advisors, so finding the right professional to help you can be a challenge. Here are the three main questions to ask yourself as you choose a financial advisor.

1. What are their education credentials and compensation structure? Many financial advisors have credentials certifying their educational and professional backgrounds. The CFP® (Certified Financial Planner) certification or the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) professional designation are two credentials that many financial advisors have obtained through rigorous study and testing. Financial advisors are most commonly compensated by an hourly or annual fee, a fee on the percentage of assets managed or some combination of the two. Some are compensated via transaction fees or commission. It’s important to find the right fit for you when hiring a financial advisor, so don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions up front. You’ll be much more comfortable in the relationship if there is a clear understanding of the expectations from the start.

2. What do you need from them as a professional and a person? Let’s face it: Life happens, and a good financial advisor will walk with you through life’s ups and downs while carefully listening to and advising you through your financial concerns. Being clear on your own needs and goals will help you decide if the financial advisor’s professional and personal approach is a good fit for you.

financial advisor

A good financial advisor will walk with you through life’s ups and downs while carefully listening to and advising you through your financial concerns.

3. Is the financial advisor required to act as a fiduciary? A financial advisor who is a fiduciary has an ethical and legal obligation to act in your best interest at all times when taking care of your financial stability and managing risks. As such, a fiduciary cannot put his or her company or personal interests ahead of yours. Advisors who don’t claim to be a fiduciary only have to satisfy the suitability standard, which does not bind a financial advisor to strictly act in your best interests, because as long as an investment can be deemed suitable for a you, then it can be purchased. In the same way that you should want a doctor to be familiar with your health before a treatment, you should want your financial advisor to have a full understanding of your comfort level and circumstances before investing and managing your money. A fiduciary is bound not only to consider the suitability of an investment before a purchase, but whether or not owning it is in your best interest.

I have a savings account at the bank, but I don’t feel like it’s doing much for me. I’ve been interested in learning more about investing and how it could benefit me, but honestly, it’s a little intimidating. I’m also not some millionaire, so is it even a viable option for me?

You don’t have to have a lot of money or be a millionaire to invest. No amount of money is too small! Investing is for everyone. Whether you have a stockpile of cash stashed under the mattress or sitting in a savings account that’s earning little to nothing, it only grows significantly if you add money to it. Yet, no matter how much you try to save up, you might still have that sinking feeling that you just can’t save enough to fund your retirement, buy a new home, send your kids to college or take that dream vacation.

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Don’t give up on your retirement, your children’s education, that dream vacation or home renovation. Whatever your goals, investing is a powerful tool that can help you succeed in the future.

Investing, however, can help you grow your money so that you can accomplish goals for your immediate and long-term future. But, let’s get one thing out of the way first: Investing is not a get-rich-quick scheme, and the greatest benefits come to regular savers. And, regular savers that increase their saving over time benefit even more.

One of the most common goals we hear from people is a desire to have enough money to retire how and when they want. No matter what retirement looks like for you, one thing holds true across the board: Steady saving over time is your friend. Consider this example: Jane starts saving $100 a month when she’s 25, while Julie starts saving that same amount when she’s 35. Assuming each of them earns 7% per year (a long-term average return of a conservative, diversified portfolio), when they turn 65 and decide to retire, Jane will have $262,000 while Julie will only have $122,000.

Now $262,000 may not seem like it will carry you very far in retirement, and perhaps that’s true, but the point here is to show how starting sooner and investing over time makes your money work for you. Jane contributed a total of $48,000 over 40 years ($12,000 more than Julie), but the extra ten years earned her substantially more on her final total. Imagine how increased saving over time would impact the outcome of our example. For instance, if we just changed the amount Jane and Julie are saving per month from $100 per month to $250 per month, then their final totals at retirement would be $656,000 and $305,000 respectively.

So, starting early can really make a difference when you are investing for the future, but it is never too late to start making your money work for you. Building your portfolio now allows you to save and invest for your financial goals and stability. Maybe that’s your retirement, your children’s education, a dream vacation, a home renovation or something else. Whatever your goals, investing is a powerful tool that can help you succeed in the future.

Have a question about finance or investments? Ask Reliant! Email us at [email protected] or give us a call at (901) 843-0600.

Reliant Investment Management, LLC is an independent investment advisory firm that provides customized portfolio management and comprehensive financial planning tailored to each client’s unique needs and circumstances. “Ask Reliant” is intended to share opinions and general knowledge about investments, financial markets, and wealth management. “Ask Reliant” is not personal advice for any specific situation and should not be construed as such. Past performance is not indicative of future results or returns. To set up a free consultation regarding your personal financial circumstances, please contact Reliant Investment Management at [email protected] or (901) 843-0600.

This article is sponsored by Reliant Investment Management, LLC.

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