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Should you hire a financial advisor? Ask yourself these 4 questions first

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In the U.S., 99% of adults don't use a financial advisor, according to a recent CNBC Invest in You survey, which polled 2,776 adults nationwide.

A whopping 76% of respondents said they manage their money themselves, followed by 15% who said their spouse or partner handles their finances and 4% who said their parents take care of their money.

Yet half of Americans say they're "just getting by financially" and 53% say just thinking about money makes them anxious. Why aren't more people seeking professional help?

With the plethora of financial information readily available online and the costs involved with hiring a professional advisor, it might seem overwhelming or unnecessary. But in many cases, it can be a worthwhile expense. 

Here are four questions to ask yourself to figure out if working with a financial professional makes sense for you.

1. What am I hoping to gain from working with a financial expert?

First, you should ask yourself what you hope to gain or improve upon by working with an expert, says Kaleb Paddock, a certified financial planner at Ten Talents Financial Planning. "This question will help you identify advisors who can meet your specific needs," he says.

If you aren't sure what that is, think about your financial goals and whether or not you're making progress. "Ask yourself: What are my benchmarks and am I ahead or behind them?" says Ryan Marshall, a certified financial planner at Ela Financial Group.

2. Can I handle the money issue I'm trying to solve on my own?

Once you've identified the area of your finances you want improve, you should think about whether you can realistically manage that issue on your own.

"A great way to think of circumstances where you should absolutely consider getting a financial advisor is to consider the three T's: time, technique and temperament," says Paddock.

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Reflecting on the "three T's" means determining if you have the following:

  1. Time: Do you have the time, patience and interest in educating yourself about personal finance topics, such as IRS rules?
  2. Technique: Do you have the technique, or technical knowledge, to understand how to avoid mistakes and leverage the best financial strategies?
  3. Temperament: Do you have the temperament to make wise financial decisions without outside advice or counsel? Can you make investing decisions without letting your emotions drive your decision making?

"If you feel you're lacking in the three T's, then you should absolutely consider getting a fiduciary financial advisor," Paddock says.

However, if "you have an innate interest in the topic of personal finance" and you "have the time to invest in researching your financial decisions and you feel confident in your technical understanding," you should be fine without seeking outside help, Paddock says. But make sure you're handling your money responsibly.

3. Are the financial experts I'm considering working with going to act as a fiduciary on my behalf?

If you hire a professional to assist with your finances, it's crucial that they're not only capable, but pledge to put your interests first. In official terms, they should vow to act as a fiduciary, which means they have a legal responsibility to do what's best for you

"You want a financial expert who will put your interests ahead of their own and even ahead of their own firm," Paddock says. "A fiduciary financial advisor will put you first, always."

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According to rules set by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Investment Advisors Act of 1940, fiduciaries have five primary responsibilities

  1. Put clients' interests first
  2. Act with the utmost good faith
  3. Provide full and fair disclosure of all material facts
  4. Do not mislead clients
  5. Expose all conflicts of interest

As professor Harold Pollack and financial journalist Helaine Olen explain in their book, "The Index Card," "a financial advisor working to the fiduciary standard has a legal duty to act in your best interest and is not getting paid to steer you into buying overpriced investment products you don't want or need."

4. Am I ready to delegate the management of my investments to someone I've only met once or twice?

It's crucial to ask yourself if you're ready to relinquish control of your finances to someone you've only been acquainted with for a short while.

A sub-question might be: "Am I open to receiving and implementing advice?" says Douglas Boneparth, president and founder of Bone Fide Wealth.

That's because working with an advisor often means giving up complete control of your money, Boneparth explains. Would you be okay with doing that?

If you aren't quite ready to delegate things like investment management, "be sure to ask how the advisor is paid, and whether you can continue self-managing your investment portfolio while following the advisor's recommendations," Paddock says. "While most advisors require you to transfer investment management to their firm, some advisors will allow you to self-manage your investments but with the financial advisor's expert advice and specific guidance."

That way, you don't have to give away all of your control and can also learn a thing or two while working with a professional to manage your finances.

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