Finding Your Fit: Which Financial Planning Method Is Right for You?

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Beyond helping you save for specific goals, a financial plan can better prepare you for unforeseen expenses and economic uncertainty. Schwab research has shown that those with a written financial plan have greater success in accumulating wealth, managing debt, and reaching their goals.

With that in mind, here’s a look at three common approaches to creating a financial plan—and how to decide which is the best fit for you.

1. Doing it yourself

DIY financial planning is popular because it’s low-cost and relatively straightforward: You start by assessing your financial situation—including your budget, cash flow, and net worth—then identify and prioritize your savings goals and assign real numbers to each. From online calculators that can help you estimate savings targets to more robust digital tools designed specifically for financial planning, do-it-yourselfers have more planning options than ever before.

DIY planning might be the right approach if you:

  • Want to keep your costs low: With a wealth of free and low-cost tools available, the biggest investment is your time.
  • Enjoy the challenge of creating and maintaining your own financial plan: You’ll need to reassess your plan any time your financial situation changes—after getting married or welcoming a new baby, for example—and keep track of your progress.
  • Have the discipline to stick with a financial plan: Successful do-it-yourselfers know how to course-correct when challenges arise.

But if you lack the time or interest necessary to create and manage your plan, you may benefit from…

2. Working with a financial planner

Financial planners can not only help you create a plan to help reach your goals, but they also can help you take a more holistic approach to your finances, incorporating charitable giving, estate planning, and more.

Of course, all that expertise comes at a cost—which can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on your needs. That said, such fees can be worth it for particularly complex plans—or simply for the peace of mind that comes from having your assumptions pressure-tested by a professional.

A qualified financial planner may be right for:

  • DIYers who want a second opinion: Even savvy investors may want a gut check to ensure their investments are aligned with their goals.
  • Those who need help creating and monitoring their plans: With your specific situation in mind, a financial planner can help create and adjust a sophisticated strategy, tailored to your goals and timeframe—and update it if things change.
  • Those with more complex financial situations: Whether it’s a large estate, a blended family, or your desire to implement a giving strategy, professional advice can take into account your full financial picture and help you make strategic decisions to reach your goals.

Alternatively, you might consider…

3. Using a robo-advisor

At their most basic, robo-advisors use sophisticated algorithms to create and monitor a diverse portfolio of investments on your behalf. However, a new generation of robo-advisors is integrating financial planning into their offerings. Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium™, for example, offers enrolled clients unlimited one-on-one guidance from a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, as well as a robust personalized road map for reaching their goals.

A robo-advisor may be right for you if:

  • You want professional guidance at a low cost: Robo-advising fees are typically much lower than those of a professional financial planner (though many have account minimums to consider).
  • You want the ability to easily update your plan as needs change: Robo-advisors can make it relatively easy and affordable to update your plan should your situation change, and some robo-advisors even offer robust online planning tools that let you adjust your plan on the fly and test out how various what-if scenarios would impact your goals.

The bottom line

Those with a written financial plan are more successful at accumulating wealth, managing debt, and reaching their goals—but how you go about creating one depends on your time, interest, and budget.