MONEY financial advisers

When Pro Athletes Become Financial Advisers

onstage during the "XXX" panel discussion at the HBO portion of the 2015 Summer TCA Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 30, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.
5 FilmMagic Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson plays a pro athlete turned financial adviser in HBO's Ballers.

Former players channel their drive into making money for their clients, many of whom are athletes themselves.

College and professional athletes may be clients financial advisers love to get, but many also find good homes on the other side of the desk.

Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, for example, is discovering that its three-year, $1.5 million sponsorship, through 2017, of the Collegiate Rugby Championship, is not only getting the company’s name out there, but is bringing in some enthusiastic new hires.

Erin Sinclair, who played rugby at the University of Kansas, started with Penn Mutual about two months ago. Sinclair brings the same passion for rugby to tackling insurance sales.

“Rugby players are used to performing under pressure; we’re very driven,” Sinclair said. “All athletes are driven.”

Attracting athletes to the ranks also has other benefits. As advisers, they can tap into their network of former and current players. Having a former high-level athlete on board also telegraphs to clients that the firm understands the needs of players and is reputable.

Read Next: 10 Pro Athletes Who Have Hit Financial Rock Bottom

Another former athlete with Penn Mutual, Adam Paoli, joined soon after he graduated from Northwestern University, where he played football all four years despite five knee surgeries. Paoli said his persistence gave him the discipline and faith to keep going as an adviser, even in the early years.

“That competitive spirit doesn’t die in you,” Paoli said.

Jon Rotter, co-founder of Penn Mutual’s The Heartland Group, in Chicago, recruited Adam.

Athletes, he said, are used to being coached so they take direction well and their competitive spirit means they are self starters who do not need their hands held every step of the way.

“We look for people who possess the traits that we can’t train,” Rotter said.

Patricia Bates, regional president for the Mid-America market with Wells Fargo, agrees. “Whether it’s at the Division I college, or professional level, they have that drive, and that translates very well in our business,” she said.

Read Next: Watch the New Trailer for Showtime’s Insider Trading Drama ‘Billions’

Marc Wilkins, a financial adviser with Wells Fargo, says his experiences as a former professional baseball player with the Pittsburgh Pirates are “priceless” when it comes to attracting other players.

“When I sit down with a baseball player, major or minor, they usually know about my background. It offers instant credibility,” he said.

Wilkins was a year away from a multi-year contract with the Pirates when a shoulder injury ended his pitching career.

Since he came up through the minors, and lived on $450 a month with three roommates in the beginning, Wilkins learned to be careful with money.

The experience gave Wilkins a real appreciation for the transient nature of cash and the time value of money, he said. As an adviser, it has stoked a desire to instill good financial habits in his clients, including among fellow athletes.

Wilkins provides athlete clients with customized budget spreadsheets that include items such as clubhouse dues and frequent travel. He also reminds them that it’s better to tuck away money in an IRA than spend it on Dom Perignon.

“I have an interest, and a passion, and especially an interest in helping this group of people,” Wilkins said.

Read Next: This NFL Millionaire Lives on a $60K Budget to Save for the Future

MONEY Workplace

What Women Breadwinners Want

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Paul Bradbury—Getty Images

46% of breadwinning women say, 'My employer is not supporting my needs in terms of a work-life balance.'

Women are the breadwinners in four out of 10 American families, and nearly 95% of women will be their family’s primary financial decision maker at some point in their lives.

But with this added financial responsibility comes tremendous stress, according to a new study of breadwinning women from the Family Wealth Advisors Council, a national network of independent wealth management firms.

The group’s survey of more than 1,000 working women finds that women are spread too thin when it comes to their familial and financial duties.

Reuters spoke to Heather Ettinger, a managing partner of Fairport Asset Management in Cleveland, Ohio, and co-author of the study, about the critical issues facing women breadwinners.

Q: What impact does the role of breadwinner have on women?

A: Sadly, it’s a role of stress, stress, stress. She is caring for her kids, maybe her parents and even kids in the next generation. In fact, 40% of the women surveyed acknowledge that they feel pressure from family and friends to downplay their breadwinner status, and 28 percent of married or committed women reported that their parents actually disapprove of their breadwinner role.

Q: How is this stress affecting her finances?

A: It’s not that the women don’t want to be in control, they just don’t have time. Women are taking on 75% of all family financial planning, and, in some cases, they are assuming as much as 90% of the responsibility for charitable giving, paying for college, retirement planning and overall saving.

But there is a gap in the advisory services available: 35% of these women have no financial adviser. When they do work with a financial adviser, they say they are not satisfied with the experience.

Meanwhile, 62% of women say they are leaving money on the table in terms of getting their financial house in order and taking advantage of a company’s benefits.

Q: What happens to breadwinning women in divorce?

A: Sadly, most of them end up much worse financially than they were. That’s not necessarily different than most divorces overall, but these women end up having to pay alimony and child support. It creates a bigger stress emotionally, financially and in terms of time.

Divorced women are not only supporting themselves, but members of their extended family as well. That might explain why many of them report not being as knowledgeable as they would like to be about their finances. What’s interesting is that divorced women in our study felt the least supported in workplace. By contrast, the widows felt the most supported.

Q: Are breadwinning women taking advantage of flexible work situations?

A: Nearly 85% of the women we surveyed said companies are doing an excellent job of providing technology that gives them the ability to be more flexible. That’s really important, but 46% of them are also saying: ‘My employer is not supporting my needs in terms of a work-life balance.’

When it comes to their jobs, they are some are getting more leadership training and mentoring. But there is still a big gap between: ‘I’m going to help coach you in your career,’ and ‘I’m going to make sure you are getting a defined career path.’

There is an opportunity here for companies to really differentiate themselves in terms of talent development as well as attracting and retaining women.

MONEY financial advice

How to Manage Your Finances Without an Adviser

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A financial professional explains how to avoid needing his help.

As a financial planner, I’d like to let you in on a little secret: Everyone has the ability to manage their finances on their own. In theory.

The information and knowledge you need to make the right financial decisions is at your fingertips. You simply need to do three things: learn, apply and manage. Let me explain:

Learn the Fundamentals

There is a ton of technical financial information out there, and it takes time to learn what you need to know. The Internet, though, has made this process easier.

You need to focus your attention on these areas:

  • General principles of financial planning
  • Insurance
  • Investing
  • Taxes
  • Retirement
  • Estate planning

If you look at those areas and feel overwhelmed, I understand. It’s a lot.

On the other hand, if you look at that list and feel that you know it all, I’d suggest rethinking that. No one out there knows it all. There is always something else to learn.

Again, the Internet makes finding this information easier, but there’s a catch. You need to carefully validate the sources of the information you collect before accepting it as true and accurate. Many financial blogs and podcasts can be extremely valuable, but others are based more on personal experience than on years of education, training, and professional work. Personal stories can help you tune in to your own situation, but they might not reflect a comprehensive understanding of finance or relevant laws and regulations.

Read next: How Do I Figure Out My Financial Priorities?

Wise Bread and Daily Finance offer advice from both bloggers and professional advisers. Bankrate has calculators that help you visualize how various savings and debt repayment strategies will impact your finances. Play with the numbers and notice how a slight adjustment to a periodic savings amount or interest rate can completely alter your results.

Apply Your Knowledge

Knowing that you need to budget and understand your cash flow is one thing, but actually doing it is another.

Start with the basics. You need to track all your money coming in (your total income) and everything going out (your fixed expenses and your discretionary spending). Once you know what your money is doing, you can set up a budget to help keep you on track from month to month. From there, you can determine what you’ll contribute to savings and investments. Make those transfers automatic.

After you set up the basics, your financial planning needs get more complicated. For example, you might start out by calculating how much money you need in your emergency reserve account, but then realize that you also need to figure out how much to save for retirement. Additionally, anyone earning income is exposed to various risks, including becoming disabled, so you’ll want to find the best way to protect yourself.

It’s all about understanding your unique circumstances, applying appropriate strategies and setting up systems to help you stay on track. There’s no right answer—only the answer that works and makes sense for you.

Much of what applying your knowledge looks like in practice is simply taking action and holding yourself accountable. It can help to write out your financial goals and check in with those regularly to remind yourself why you’re working hard to manage your money.

And to make sure you stay on the right track over time, you should set up check-in points periodically throughout the year. For example, you might want to revisit your budget monthly, your investments quarterly, and your overall financial plan annually.

Manage Your Behavior

This is by far the most challenging piece, because emotions often cloud our thinking. It can feel simple to manage our own money when times are good. However, we often fall prey to recency bias—assuming that what happened in the recent past will continue into the future. Confidence (or fear) projected into the future can distract us from making prudent decisions.

When things get stressful, you get distracted. Other things take up your time, energy, and attention, diverting you from managing your finances.

As you continue to learn, you might also find yourself confused by a myriad of opinions and different ways of doing things. Decision fatigue can set in. It can become extremely challenging to make even the simplest of decisions as you start questioning yourself and your knowledge.

After all, there’s a lot on the line—your money and your life. You don’t want to make a mistake, and you want to do everything you can to maximize your financial resources. Your decision-making can become clouded by fear, and it can just as easily be affected by greed.

To successfully manage your own money, you need to manage your own behavior. That means taking small, consistent actions over time. You need to create your plan of action and stick with it through market ups and downs, through everything from personal struggles to professional triumphs.

Why Work With a Financial Planner Anyway

All that being said, it’s worth reiterating that managing your own behavior is the most difficult part of managing your personal finances. Most people cannot do it successfully.

Most mistakes happen when people depart from rational decisionmaking with their finances. Hopes, dreams, fears, and other emotions start creeping in. We all do this.

It’s easier to manage our behavior when we have an outside perspective. While we can’t necessarily see the bigger picture when we’re immersed in it, someone looking in from the outside, from an objective point of view, may be able to help steer us in the right direction. That’s where a professional financial planner can add a lot of value.

It’s possible to manage your own money, but it’s not probable that everyone can do it successfully. There is a reason why even some financial planners have financial planners. Everything is easier when you have someone who can help hold you accountable. A professional financial planner may be able to help you find more success than you would achieve on your own—even if you know all the right money moves to make.

Get started on your own by educating yourself, applying your knowledge, and practicing smart (rational!) behavior around money management. Then, for long-term success in avoiding behavioral traps and pitfalls, consider working with a financial adviser. Carl Richards put it bluntly but accurately: It’s well worth it to “put someone between you and stupid.”

Eric Roberge, CFP, is the founder of Beyond Your Hammock, where he works virtually with professionals in their 20s and 30s, helping them use money as a tool to live a life they love. Through personalized coaching, Eric helps clients organize their finances, set goals, and invest for the future.

MONEY Opinion

Why Are People Obsessed With Financial Advisers’ Pay?

Financial Advisor
Daniel Grill—Getty Images

We don't have these conversations about doctors, lawyers, and accountants, do we?

Let’s cut to the chase: There are good, honest, hardworking financial advisers of all business and compensation models.

Unfortunately there are people in the profession—and out—who demonize those who are not following one model over another. This is unfair to tens of thousands of advisers while hindering the profession from becoming what it can be.

Let’s be honest: Each compensation model—whether it be fee-only, commission and fee, or commission-only—comes with its advantages and disadvantages.

Focusing on compensation does the profession of financial planning a major disservice. No other respected profession focuses on compensation as a determining factor of whom you should and should not work with.

You don’t have this same compensation debate in medicine, law or accounting. So why does this focus exist in financial planning? While compensation is an important aspect of the client/adviser relationship, it is far from being the ultimate determining factor as to whether or not a consumer engages an adviser.

The debate over adviser compensation reminds me of the California Milk Processor Board’s long-running “Got Milk?” campaign. The ads didn’t differentiate between the different types of milk available to consumers, whether it was whole milk, low-fat milk, skim milk, or even chocolate milk. They just asked if you got milk. Consumers of financial planning advice should be able to seek out an adviser whose model is best for them, not because they are being told which model is right.

The Financial Planning Association, of which I serve as the volunteer president, is compensation-neutral, which means that we don’t adhere to the notion that a compensation model determines whether a professional is operating in the client’s best interest. FPA’s more than 24,000 members—and more than 17,000 Certified Financial Planner professional members—are diverse in their compensation and business models. FPA believes that how advisers charges for their services is not in itself an indicator of their competency or ethical standing. What consumers really need to seek are those advisers who have earned the right to call themselves CFP professionals.

CFP professionals are required by their certifying body, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, to act in a fiduciary capacity at all times during the financial planning engagement. That means that no matter how a CFP professional is paid, he or she is required to act in the client’s best interest.

This is why FPA believes in building a recognized financial planning profession around a single designation that requires high professional standards and requirements. You don’t have ongoing debates as to whether compensation determines competency among doctors, lawyers, and accountants, do you? No. That’s because putting the best interest of those they serve first is embedded in their professions.

Let’s not focus on compensation models, but on the need for those in the profession to practice full and fair disclosure and operate in the client’s best interest all of the time. Any adviser should be willing to fully disclose all material facts that may, or may not, have an impact on the client/adviser relationship. That goes beyond compensation and should include services provided, investment philosophy, experience, education, past disciplinary actions, and more.

At the end of the day, each consumer of financial services needs to be comfortable in his or her relationship with an adviser. For some people, paying their adviser a fee will make them comfortable, while for others commissions will make more sense. It is really up to the individual and the circumstances, and the more we denigrate one form of compensation over another the more harm we do to the profession and the public.

An educated consumer is going to be a better consumer of financial services. That is what we should be focused on.

Read next: HBO’s Ballers Puts Financial Advisers in the Limelight

Edward W. Gjertsen II, CFP, is vice president of Mack Investment Securities in Glenview, Ill., and is the 2015 president of the Financial Planning Association. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely his.

MONEY Financial Planning

Can a TV Commercial Offer Valuable Investing Insights?

watching tv
Getty Images

An ad spot featuring noisy advisers offers useful lessons that can improve your investing and financial planning.

It’s not often that I get worthwhile insights about investing while watching financial programs on TV. And rarer still that I get nuggets of wisdom from a commercial. But that’s exactly the combination I experienced last week.

There I was, plodding along on the treadmill, tuned into a popular investing show, working up a sweat as a series of stock charts flashed before my eyes and a relentless stream of company news, market data and miscellaneous factoids entered one ear and exited the other. Then, the program cut to a commercial and to my surprise I saw something on the screen that was actually worth watching: a commercial titled “Separating Knowledge From Financial Noise.”

This 30-second spot from Invesco begins as a man awakens to a beeping alarm, only to find four financial advisers looming over his bed, jabbering at him all at once. It’s an unintelligible cacophony of investment babble. All you can make out are occasional little snippets: “Is the Fed pushing down stock prices?,” “click here,” “bold value equity investing,” “The best thing to do is..”

The blather continues as the advisers crowd into the shower with him, then surround him on the escalator on his way into his office. He ducks into the men’s room for a respite from the chatter, but the quartet is in there too, still nattering away nonstop. The commercial ends with the poor fellow in a sauna with a towel draped over his lap, the advisers hovering around him, still prattling away.

Maybe this commercial resonated with me because, like the guy being pursued by the blithering advisers, I felt that I too had been subjected to a tsunami of financial information of questionable practical value during my time on the treadmill (although, admittedly self-inflicted in my case; I could have watched re-runs of Bonanza on TV Land). But the commercial’s main message—that financial noise is everywhere and you’ve got to separate knowledge from noise—is an important one that investors need to hear.

In today’s up-to-the-nanosecond 24/7 news cycle, we’re awash in financial information. It comes not just from advisers, as in the commercial, but websites, social media, TV, radio and other media. And since we hear instantly whether the Chinese stock market is tanking or recovering, which companies are beating or missing their earnings estimates and what the Federal Reserve chief may have mused in the past few minutes about the possibility of interest rate hikes, many investors feel compelled to act on this information. They believe that by moving quickly they can gain an edge over slower-moving fellow investors and capitalize on this information, in effect turn it into superior returns.

That is a dubious assumption to say the least. Just because we know what’s going on now doesn’t mean we can divine the future. Take Google. Two weeks ago it rose 16% in a single day. But investors who saw that jump as an indication that Google was revving up for even bigger gains may have had second thoughts last week when Google appeared on a list possible stocks to “short,” or bet against. Fact is, despite the access to reams of information no one really knows which path a stock or the market or interest rates will take. People who think they do are overconfident.

So what’s the best way to deal with this information overload? Well, the Invesco commercial suggests working with an adviser who can bring some perspective to this cascade of data. And I suppose that’s reasonable enough, although it raises the issue of how to pick the right adviser—i.e., one who’s honest and competent and whose services you can afford.

But there’s another approach that you can take on your own (or for that matter follow with the help of an adviser). And that is to basically ignore the noise—or at least don’t act on it—and instead create a broadly diversified mix of low-cost index funds or ETFs that reflects your investing goals and tolerance for risk (which you can gauge by completing this risk tolerance-asset allocation questionnaire). Aside from periodic rebalancing, you should largely stick with that mix whatever the nattering nabobs of the investment world may be rattling on about.

In the meantime, if you haven’t seen the commercial I’m talking about, or a second version that has a couple being hounded by noisy advisers, I recommend you check them out. And then find a nice quiet place where you can decide how best to prevent investment noise from disrupting your investing plan.

Walter Updegrave is the editor of RealDealRetirement.com. If you have a question on retirement or investing that you would like Walter to answer online, send it to him at walter@realdealretirement.com.

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MONEY financial advice

Vanguard’s Founder Explains What Your Investment Adviser Should Do

Jack Bogle, founder of the mutual fund giant, shares what makes an investment adviser worth paying for.

The life of a financial adviser can be very tricky. Many of them believe that leaving a client’s investments alone is the best option, but when, year after year, clients come in asking what the best course of action is for their money, what do you tell them? Jack Bogle, who 40 years ago founded the mutual fund giant Vanguard (it now has about $3 trillion of assets under management), explains exactly what a financial adviser should do and what a financial adviser should say.

Read next: Jack Bogle Explains How the Index Fund Won With Investors

MONEY Financial Planning

8 Steps to Financial Wellness

open journal with pen on top
Sergio Kumer—Getty Images/iStockphoto

Financial wellness isn't just about wealth. It requires developing emotional and physical wellness as well.

The goal of comprehensive financial planning is to help our clients achieve financial wellness. That’s not the same as helping them get rich.

Building wealth and accumulating assets are important, but they make up only a slice of the wellness pie. Financial wellness also incorporates the ways wealth and income affect our emotional and physical well-being.

Financial wellness requires developing emotional and physical wellness as well. Searching for one inherently will expand to a search for all three. Just as with emotional and physical health, developing financial wellness is a journey—one which few people choose to make, and one in which there’s always a chance of going further.

Here’s some guidance for clients who want to embark on that journey, and for the planners who want to help them:

  1. This is an individual journey. Traveling the path to financial wellness for the sake of a spouse, parent, or friend—or because a financial planner recommends it—won’t work. If the motivation is a “should” or an “ought,” calling off the venture will save a lot of frustration and pain for both client and planner.
  1. You can’t guilt, shame, or manipulate people into this journey, and you shouldn’t help them guilt, shame, or manipulate anyone else to accompany them. We can’t find financial wellness for anyone else but ourselves. We certainly can join with others along the way, but all those on the path need to be there for themselves regardless of whether others are on the path.
  1. Be prepared for naysayers. Not everyone in a person’s life will support his or her quest for financial wellness. Many will try to convince him or her to stop or turn back. Often, the closer people are, and the more dependent they are on the client’s financial choices, the more threatening the journey may be to them and the more they will resist it.
  1. Lower your expectations of how quickly a person’s attitudes and behaviors around money and finances will change. Chances are it has taken a lifetime to develop a client’s relationship with money. Unlike the journey that Ebenezer Scrooge took to financial wellness, those of us in the real world won’t miraculously transform our relationship overnight.
  1. In the early stages of the journey, resist the urge to give people practical, logical information about money instead of looking at their emotions and beliefs around money. Most of the journey to financial wellness is not about the money. It’s about the thoughts and emotions we have about money and wealth.
  2. Be open to new awareness and knowledge. Planners should encourage clients to let go of their most deeply held “truths” about money. The more stubbornly we cling to strong beliefs about how systems work or people function around money, the more likely that those beliefs are not serving us well.
  1. Be gentle with people and encourage them to be gentle with themselves if they get off the main path and have to backtrack. Everyone on the journey to wellness takes his or her share of wrong turns.
  1. You can’t help people go where you are not going yourself. Planners can be trusted guides for clients, sharing their wisdom, missteps, and experience. For us planners to be such guides, it’s essential we be on the road to financial wellness ourselves.

Rick Kahler, ChFC, is president of Kahler Financial Group, a fee-only financial planning firm. His work and research regarding the integration of financial planning and psychology has been featured or cited in scores of broadcast media, periodicals and books. He is a co-author of four books on financial planning and therapy. He is a faculty member at Golden Gate University and the former president of the Financial Therapy Association.

MONEY financial advisers

How to Know If Your Retirement Planner’s Credentials Are Real or Worthless

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It's easy for advisers to add a title after their names without doing all that much, so be sure your pro has actual expertise.

Is your adviser touting questionable retirement-planning credentials? Just last week the Massachusetts Securities Division fined LPL Financial $250,000 after an investigation into the use of senior designations by some of the firm’s representatives. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering hiring someone for retirement help.

If you were looking for guidance with your retirement planning, would you be more likely to hire someone if his business card stated he was an Accredited Retiree Counselor? How about if he were a Qualified Retirement Strategies Specialist? Or a Certified Retirement Planning Expert?

I hope not, because I just made them up by writing dozens of words like “retirement,” “accredited,” “specialist,” etc. onto little slips of paper, tossing them into a bowl and then drawing them out at random. Which illustrates a fundamental quandry: Given the dozens of official-sounding designations out there, how can you tell whether a string of impressive titles represents real retirement-planning know-how or is a marketing gimmick designed to imply expertise that isn’t there? I have three suggestions.

1. Demand details about the designation. Don’t be shy. Just say you’re naturally skeptical of such titles in light of the recent National Senior Investor Initiative report from the SEC and FINRA and an earlier study from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that raised questions about senior designations. Among the questions you should ask: What organization issues the credential? What makes that organization credible (Is it accredited? If so, by whom?) How long did it take to get the designation and what was required (how many hours of study, on-site or online course work, a final exam)? Is continuing education required to maintain it? Basically, you want to know that the adviser isn’t effectively trying to buy credibility.

You can get more information about professional titles and designations by going to the Paladin Registry’s Check A Credential tool and FINRA’s Professional Designations database.

2. Vet the adviser. I don’t care how extensive an array of designations an adviser holds, you still have to do some due diligence to make sure the adviser hasn’t had a litany of complaints clients and/or run ins with regulators. A good place to start your digging into the adviser’s background is the Check Out A Broker or Adviser section of the Securities and Exchange Commission site, which has detailed information on how to research the background of all types of advisers—brokers, financial planners, investment advisers—plus other resources, including links to FINRA’s BrokerCheck system and state securities regulators’ sites.

3. Listen to your gut. Although there’s always the risk of being duped by a Madoff-like investor who’s a complete fraud, the more likely scenario is that you end up doing business with an adviser who’s willing to boost his bottom line at the expense of yours. To lower the odds of that happening, spend some time with the adviser to find out exactly what he intends to do for you and what his products and services will cost.

Start by getting a sense of how he operates: Does he make his living mostly by selling a limited range of products from a restricted menu offered by his own or affiliated companies? Or can he pick and choose investment options from a broad range of firms? You also want to find out exactly how is he compensated—solely by commissions, by annual or hourly fees, a combination of fees and commissions? Each method has its advantages and drawbacks (although I think paying fees for advice has less potential for conflicts of interest). But whatever system the adviser uses, he should be able to provide you a written estimate of his fees and any other charges upfront.

Ultimately, you want to deal with an adviser you feel you can rely on to deliver independent advice, not someone looking to charge bloated annual fees to manage your money or a salesperson looking to unload his inventory on you. So if at any point in the process of dealing with an adviser you feel that something doesn’t ring true or that you’re not really sure you can trust the adviser, my advice would be to move on. There are plenty of advisers out there to choose from.

Who knows, maybe efforts now underway by the White House, Department of Labor and Securities and Exchange Commission to hold advisers to a more rigorous standard may make it easier for consumers to find advisers they can trust. I don’t consider that a given, but we’ll see. In the meantime, though, don’t let an alphabet-soup of credentials on a business card determine which adviser gets to handle something as crucial and irreplaceable as your retirement savings.

Walter Updegrave is the editor of RealDealRetirement.com. If you have a question on retirement or investing that you would like Walter to answer online, send it to him at walter@realdealretirement.com.

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MONEY financial advice

Financial Website Brothers Share Their Best Financial Advice

BrightScope co-founders Mike and Ryan Alfred talk about retirement savings and their biggest money mistakes.

Save until it hurts was the first thing Mike Alfred, a co-founder of BrightScope, said about retirement savings, and that’s part of his best financial advice to give others as well. “Live below your means,” he said, “which sounds very simple in theory but it much more difficult in practice.” His brother Ryan, the other BrightScope co-founder, suggests keeping your investments at arms-length so you’re not tempted to overanalyze them.

Mike said his biggest mistake was buying in to the dot-com bubble, while Ryan talks about how they funded a large part of their business on their own credit cards.

Read next: The Co-founders of BrightScope Share The Painful Secret to Retirement Success

MONEY financial advisers

Why Even the Rich Don’t Trust Themselves with Their Money

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Helder Almeida—Shutterstock

When the affluent are nervous, it's time for middle-class investors to make sure their portfolios are on track.

If the wild market swings of the past week have you feeling anxious about your portfolio, you’re not alone. Even wealthy investors say a volatile stock market puts them on edge, perhaps because so much of their money is bound up in stocks.

A new study finds that almost 40% of affluent investors don’t trust themselves to manage their own investments during market downturns—in fact, more than 60% of those surveyed say they currently work with a financial adviser. (Although the study targeted people with more than $250,000 in financial assets, the group surveyed had a median $450,000 parked in the stock market.)

It’s not just wealthy investors who are worried about their finances, of course. Another recent survey found that 62% of Americans overall reported being kept awake by money concerns, though the percentage is smaller than in past years. Among those losing sleep, 40% reported worrying about retirement savings; among those ages 50-54, fully half said this concern keeps them up at night.

No question, the markets have been especially turbulent lately. After a fairly quiet spring, the VIX—a measure of volatility in the S&P 500—jumped at the end of June, as the Greek debt crisis and China’s stock market turmoil made headlines. Plus, a technical glitch shut down the New York Stock Exchange. (The crisis in Greece appears be on track to a resolution, but China’s shaky stock market may yet upend global markets.)

The Surge in Advice

Granted, investment surveys like these tend to play up market anxieties—and the need for professional hand-holding. Wells Fargo, the sponsor of this particular survey, made more than $800 million off its financial advisory business last year.

It’s just one of the proliferating number of financial services firms offering advice to nervous investors. That list includes not only brokers (like Wells Fargo) and fee-only advisers, but also the new breed of low-cost online investment advisory services (often labeled robo-advisers) such as Wealthfront and Betterment.

Established fund groups like Charles Schwab and Vanguard have also gotten into the act by offering a mix of automated advice and human guidance for significantly lower fees—or no fees at all, in the case of Schwab Intelligent Portfolios. Meanwhile, some fee-only advisers have changed their pricing model to create an offering for younger and less affluent investors, which is paid through monthly retainer fees rather than charging a percentage of assets. (Such plans give younger investors access to unbiased advice, but the resulting price tag winds up being well above the traditional 1% of assets.)

Where to Get Help

Should you opt for one of these advice services? The answer may depend on how susceptible you are to fear, greed and other portfolio-undermining emotions. If the answer is “very,” there are simple ways to get some guidance.

The easiest move is to use a low-cost target-date fund, which will give you instant diversification, automatic rebalancing, and an asset mix that grows more conservative as you approach your retirement date.

You can also consider one of the online offerings. You can start small—Wealthfront, for example, just lowered its minimum investment to $500. Above $10,000, you will pay a fee of roughly 0.25% of invested assets.

But if you think you can go it alone, you can save yourself even that modest fee. After all, that Wells Fargo data shows that 61% of those wealthy investors still do trust themselves to stay calm when markets shake. If you know you’ll be able to keep your head while flying solo, pick a simple portfolio allocation, fill it with low-cost index funds and rebalance once a year.

Read next: Meet Your New Financial Adviser

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