Any recommendation for a fee-only financial planner in the los angeles area?
December 19, 2012 7:58 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend has as long as I have known her, struggled with money problems. As a thoughtful and incredibly unromantic gift, I am getting her a meeting with a fee-only financial planner for her birthday.

We both make very modest incomes, I am sure she makes below 30,000 a year, though I don't know the exact number.

I'm not having much luck looking online, hopefully one of you guys can help us out here.
posted by punch_the_mayor to Work & Money (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Has she asked for help?

Since you're in the Los Angeles area maybe one of the local credit unions there offers financial planning classes.
posted by dfriedman at 8:01 PM on December 19, 2012

If she has not specifically expressed her desire for financial guidance, and you don't live together or mingle your finances, I would think really carefully before doing this.
posted by keep it under cover at 8:08 PM on December 19, 2012 [32 favorites]

You should be clear about your goal. Do you want to help her prepare for retirement or have more money left over at the end of the week?

A fee-only financial planner is someone who helps you manage your investments, not someone who teaches you how to budget. If you want to help her with money I would make it more like a joint self-improvement project that you embark on together, if she is interested. And then spend time learning and experimenting with budgets and such, as a way to spend time together.

If you do want to help her plan for retirement I think this should start off with a conversation, not with a surprise.
posted by bleep at 8:21 PM on December 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

If I got that as a gift, I'd think it was kind of patronizing. Get her a real gift, and bring this up on a day that's not her birthday.
posted by wolfnote at 8:22 PM on December 19, 2012 [27 favorites]

I am an incredibly unromantic person, but this is not merely an unromantic gift idea: it is a negative-romantic gift idea. Romantic bankruptcy, as it were.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:25 PM on December 19, 2012 [36 favorites]

I am sure you mean this from a good place but I would recommend a JOINT session where you both learn about money/finances or you have several sessions, tell her about your experiences and see if she expresses an interest.
posted by saucysault at 8:25 PM on December 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is a well-intentioned but poorly, poorly times idea. Give her a real present, and schedule a joint financial advising session for months later so she has no idea that you had originally intended this to be part of her birthday surprise.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:29 PM on December 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think if you want to go ahead with this, you need to find a way to give it so that the outcome is that she's empowered afterwards. I used to be terrible with money, and while I didn't make very much, I messed up by bouncing checks and paying bills late so that the fees and penalties ate me alive. Would she rather read Dave Ramsey or listen to his advice than meet someone in an office? and if you do go ahead, make sure to give her something romantic and nice, too.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:43 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, it's my impression (your gf and I are in similar income brackets) that those financial planner-types that you're looking for are pretty much for use by people who have too much money to spend. Everything they don't spend on Maseratis and 8 mortgages they want to invest, save, etc, and the financial planner helps them do that. For a fee.

If she had come into an inheritance or won the lottery or something, then hiring one of these professionals would make sense. At her income level, it's much more prudent and helpful to track spending. Free services abound that hook into your bank account and help you analyze the ins and outs of your dough.

Maybe open Mint accounts together or something? (Not necessarily recommending Mint, there may be a better option I'm not aware of.)
posted by carsonb at 8:45 PM on December 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

I submit to you that this is the equivalent of giving her a gift certificate to a "Biggest Loser" camp. Do. Not. Do. It.

Money is like weight. People know they have money problems. In fact, ime, women especially tend to assume their money habits and situation is the WORST EVAR!! There is a huge amount of shame and secrecy about it. This isn't true for every person or every subculture, but the fact that you don't even know how much she makes tells me she's from a culture that views money as very private.

However. If you are getting serious about becoming a financial unit, i.e., married, ask her to find a therapist who specializes in or is very good at dealing with money issues. Most are not. That will be more use than a financial planner.

There are financial planners who will help with budgeting if that's really what she's having problems with, but unless she's one of those people who can't easily make change from a $20, the math/logic is not her actual problem. If she IS one of those people who have trouble with basic organization and math, then a money coach might be helpful.

But not for a birthday present. Sorry for the pileon.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:50 PM on December 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

And when you schedule a joint session, be prepared to have the financial planner or money therapist tell you that your way is not the only way. It works, obviously, but it may not suit her and there are dozens of ways to skin that cat.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:52 PM on December 19, 2012

Birthdays are for feeling special just for being yourself. Agreed that anything in the self improvement genre would not be a good go-to gift UNLESS this is something you know she really wants but can't afford or something she is unable to seek out for herself (too overwhelming of a prospect).

A good friend bought me a year of the Dave Ramsey program and the books/planners, and that was a great and life-changing gift, but it she only offered it to me after years of hearing me struggle with mismanaging spending, and then asking me something along the lines of: "hey, do you want to try this program? I'd like to give it to you if you want to give it a shot; I think it will help." So, this can be a great gift, and it is kind of you to try to help her, but tread carefully and consider gifting it on a seperate occasion from a holiday,?etc.
posted by NikitaNikita at 9:14 PM on December 19, 2012

She makes under $30k? Planning is not her problem.

Or, what thomas j wise said.
posted by Salamander at 9:39 PM on December 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: We live together, I end up paying for most expenses so I think our bills are tangled a sufficient degree to warrant this.

We have talked extensively about doing this, but she has expressed that she wants me to be there with her.

And maybe future financial planning is pointless, but I believe it's important for her to talk to someone about her credit card debt and how to best deal with it.
posted by punch_the_mayor at 10:05 PM on December 19, 2012 [6 favorites]

I don't have any leads, but I think, if done right, this would be a really cool gift (at least, if given to me, I would love it). It may wind up taking a lot of stress out of her every day life, and give her great goals for the future. Although it does have to be something that is a goal of hers, or something she is interested for herself and her own future. If this is just something you think she NEEDS, then skip it.
posted by Vaike at 10:09 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

What about grabbing some wine or a few beers and just watching The Suze Orman Show together as a first step? It's entertaining and it eases you into the vocab and the mindset of financial planning. It also discusses finances and relationships a lot.
posted by cadge at 11:17 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm going to go crazy here, and assume you know your girlfriend and your relationship better than a bunch of randoms on the internet, and attempt to answer your actual question.

1. Many banks and credit unions offer their own fee-based financial advisors.

2. As a non-American, I don't totally understand how 401ks relate to what we have here, superannuation, but many superannuation companies also offer fee-based advice. Neither this, nor the bank ones are dodgy in the least, and they can be good because they see a lot more income variety than some of the more boutique advisors.

3. Recommendations are good, but there's no point getting one from people with significantly more assets than you do (multiple properties as opposed to one, for example).

4. Get her something else, as well. And go along yourself. ;)
posted by smoke at 12:29 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Bunch of comments deleted. This is isn't difficult folks; the question is very clear, and the OP has further clarified. Answer the question that was asked or move on.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:34 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you looked at the Suze Orman stuff? "Young Fabulous and Broke" is pretty practical for folks not making much... I hate it when they're all "stop getting $8 coffees at starbucks" and I'm all "I wish I had $8 to buy a train pass to get to work next week". Good luck!
posted by jrobin276 at 12:43 AM on December 20, 2012 [7 favorites]

We have talked extensively about doing this, but she has expressed that she wants me to be there with her.

And maybe future financial planning is pointless, but I believe it's important for her to talk to someone about her credit card debt and how to best deal with it.

Then maybe a credit counselor or a therapist who specializes in money issues is the way to go. I don't think you're going to get what you think you're going to get out of a financial planner.
posted by cooker girl at 5:00 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to work for a financial planner and we would turn kids like you away with, "you'll be fine. Keep investing in your 401k and put money in savings before you make your budget." They were well meaning but there just wasn't much benefit to specialized planning beyond the super basics.

If you want to do a financial gift, get her a highly rated, fun, useful book about money.
posted by michaelh at 5:32 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

If she is in debt to the point where paying bills is a problem, I highly recommend CCCS (Dallas area, there are others throughout the country). It's a non-profit... and they turned my life around.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:21 AM on December 20, 2012

David Bach's Smart Women Finish Rich is great, if your girlfriend would be open to reading about finances. It's practical & easy to understand.

If you want to approach it as a joint project, maybe look at "Smart Couples Finish Rich" instead.
posted by belladonna at 7:25 AM on December 20, 2012

I echo the many folks above who have said this is not a good idea for a birthday gift. Take her out to dinner, get her flowers or jewelry, do something fun for the birthday celebration.

However, if you both are planning a life together, and you and she both think you need a solid financial blueprint to work from, I highly recommend that you both take Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University class. Now I will tell you up front that Dave Ramsey markets himself as a "Christian" financial educator, so his classes are often given through local churches and do have "Biblical" tie-ins, but it's not preachy or overdone. And, the class is fun! You watch a video lecture by Dave (and he is a FUNNY, entertaining, & engaging speaker), discuss, and then work thorugh some in-class exercises.

His financial education program is *excellent* - perfect for teaching you the basics about what's important money-wise, how to protect yourself against the ups and downs of life and money, and also how to plan for the future. He lays out a specific easy-to-follow step-by-step program to lay sound groundwork and then build upon it, to properly protect and provide for yourself financially. While the class is often provided & sponsored through a church, you do *not* have to be a member of that church to attend one. They are also quite reasonable, ranging between $90-$200 for a 9-week class session.

And if you're not interested in attending a class, Dave Ramsey offers the video lectures as a home-study program on DVDs, online class, or even a stand-alone book, the Total Money Makeover. Really, for getting a handle on the basics of personal finance and money management, I cannot say enough good stuff about Dave Ramsey.
posted by Ardea alba at 7:44 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I found a lot of value in reading Get Rich Slowly, in large part because you can take it in small chunks, or subscribe to the feed and get something new to think about each day. And feeling like you're part of a frugal community really helps to make the decisions you want to make.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:26 AM on December 20, 2012

Yeah, Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University is a MUCH better way to address the issue, if you both agree. Very affordable too. You do it together, and you both learn how to manage money better.

A lot of local churches offer it, so pretty much I'm nthing Ardea alba.

I find his personal politics not so good, but the rest of it is gold.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:17 AM on December 20, 2012

You don't want a financial planner. They are great when you have money and need to figure out what to do with it. What you need is financial counselling of some sort. That will have more of a focus on creating budgets and tackling debts effectively. So either you can get someone or you can do it yourself. I love Gail Vaz-Oxlade personally if you're going the DIY approach.

All that said, I agree with those saying you should get her something else for her birthday,or at least something additional for her birthday. A birthday gift should be fun and how unfun for her when people ask her about her birthday and she tells them that you got her a meeting with a financial counsellor. This stuff is important and having a good grasp on your money can be life changing, so if she's cool with it, go for it, but also get her something meaningful that she can enjoy right away.
posted by GilvearSt at 10:55 AM on December 20, 2012

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