Hiring tax, financial and legal experts
September 8, 2021 12:42 PM   Subscribe

I need an explainer like I'm twenty-five about hiring an attorney to look at things like wills and contracts and documents, hiring an accountant or tax person to do increasingly complex taxes and talk me through financial decisions and considerations, and a financial person to help with things like 401ks, insurance policies and IRAs.

I know a small amount about each thing but I need assistance navigating the many, many options and decisions that will have a different answer year-to-year. I reached out to what I thought was a financial person but I'd chosen the wrong profession because the person said they couldn't help me. I've tried word of mouth but that lead to dead ends or pushing to the limit how much I wanted to share with an acquaintance.

Who do I need for each of these things, how do I hire them, and what kind of money should I expect to shell out for their professional opinions and guidance?
posted by cashman to Work & Money (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You want a fee-based (not commission-based) fiduciary financial planner. They will help with investments (including 401ks and IRAs) and simple insurance stuff, and will introduce you to the specific professionals who can help with more complicated insurance stuff, tax planning, tax preparation, and estate planning. You can hire them on a monthly retainer or pay a one off fee for a full review. I don't know how much a one off would cost, but the monthly fee for a fee-only CFP is in the ballpark of $100.
posted by caek at 1:09 PM on September 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What caek said. For wills and contracts and docs, you want a field-specific attorney, like an estate-law person or a RE lawyer. Accountants sometimes have special expertise as well (crypto or IPOs for example). But for the financial decisions, an independent fee-based planner should be able to help you put numbers and options on paper for you to decide between.
posted by Dashy at 1:50 PM on September 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure what kind of services caek is referring to, but this will be much more than $100/month. This review cites a median cost of around $2400 for a comprehensive financial plan, and a median hourly rate of around $200. The cost of your required services could be less or much more, depending on what services you need, how complex your situation is, and where you live. For example, this says it's typically $250-$300/hour for a trust and estate lawyer.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:10 PM on September 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: $100/month is my guesstimate for the retainer fee for a fee-based financial planner who can answer half your questions themselves, and hold you hand while you get the other half answered by someone else. I'm not pulling that number out of thin air. Mine is $125/month and he's in the most unaffordable city in the United States, so I figure $100/month is about right. For that I get a couple of calls a month.

He's not a lawyer, so what I pay him specifically doesn't cover the cost of a lawyer for estate planning, which is probably the largest expense associated with getting your affairs in order. He did provide a referral and a lot of advice when I did that though.
posted by caek at 7:39 PM on September 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I asked a similar question years ago, and the answers were similar to those you're getting now. I still think some kind of financial coach idea is a good one to go into the financial weeds on choosing, say, whether to pay cash for a car or lease it, or what to do with a small inheritance.

Cautionary anecdote: Just recently I needed tax advice for a very particular scenario involving real estate. The amount of money was too small (actually over six figures so not chump change either) to interest CPAs or tax lawyers. I was willing to pay going hourly rate to get a solid answer to this bothersome financial problem. Research to find someone took a ton of time as did waiting for zero responses to my calls and emails. I finally found an online CPA service willing to offer advice. Before I signed on, I checked reviews of the service and found out their advice was often useless and that they charged much more than most tax lawyers if I could've hired one of those.
posted by Elsie at 6:37 AM on September 9, 2021

I think the best way to find such people are by word of mouth as you often run into the problem that your issues are either too big or too small for a specific provider when you search more generally. As others suggest, I would think about starting with the financial planner, as they may be able to recommend other professionals for more specific problems and you usually work with them on the big picture of your financial position. Alternatively, if some of the complications in your situation relate to some kind of business ownership, then you might be able to start by asking people who own similar size businesses in your area if they can recommend an accountant.
posted by plonkee at 9:44 AM on September 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: i have a cfp who is fee-only and awesome. she does, however, cost more than $100 a month and she is worth every penny. memail me if you'd like her information. i actually got her name from a thread here much like this one.
posted by koroshiya at 8:15 PM on September 9, 2021

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