1. Research. Get some clarity about what kind of advice you're seeking. Do you just want to tune up your portfolio, or would you also like help with other financial issues?
By taking the time to think about it, you may also realize that you could use help figuring out how to finance your kids' college educations, plan for a comfortable retirement or determine if you have the right types and amounts of insurance coverage.
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Nearly every financial decision you make is linked to more than one area of your financial life. For example, you can't really think about how to invest without also considering why you're investing, including the time horizon associated with your goals, your current and projected tax status, the type of benefits you have in place and the unique risks that your family may face.
For most people, the broader perspective offered by the financial-planning approach—with its emphasis on integrated decision-making—is what's called for. Thinking in advance about all of the issues that you've wondered about, or that are keeping you up at night, will also prepare you for Step 3 in the selection process.