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TheStreet Open House

Here's Why You Can't Settle for Less Than In-Person Financial Advice

By Larry Light

NEW YORK ( AdviceIQ) -- Face-to-face contact is vital when you make a financial plan. Recently, several advisory firms sprang up offering financial advice over the Web or phone. The idea is that these robo-advisers charge less than advisers offering in-person service. Well, you get what you pay for.

Advisers are not only for the rich and, yes, you can get a good flesh-and-blood adviser who charges a very reasonable fee.

What's the value of meeting personally with an adviser? Human interaction is far superior to a phone or online conversation. You can buy a diet book that tells you how to lose weight. But sticking to its lessons is difficult. The reason Weight Watchers is so successful is that you get encouragement and better information from actual people. The human byplay also renders tips that are tailored to you, not to a cookie-cutter version of you.

The look on your face, the tilt of your eyes and your body language tells an adviser a lot, offering cues that don't come across on a phone line or a computer screen. In-person talks are longer and more in-depth, offering nuances and information about you the client that remote communications seldom yield.

The hours I spent with my adviser, Jim Ludwick of MainStreet Financial Planning, unearthed numerous important facts that likely would remain locked in the back of my mind if we'd merely spoken on the phone.

For instance, I had no idea that the 20-plus years I spent in the Army Reserve could ease my health care expenses. Turns out that there's a military medical program called TriCare that ex-reservists can use. I thought it was restricted to longtime active-duty personnel. By chit-chatting with Jim about my life, the military background came up.

In addition, advisers who live in your community -- and not halfway across the country -- are vital when times get tough, such as when a spouse dies. An adviser who knows your family very well is a terrific help. When the spouse who handles the finances passes away, the adviser is available on the spot and can come right over. His or her expertise and knowledge lightens the surviving spouse's emotional load and lends day-to-day support navigating the landscape of estates and other scary post-mortem financial matters.

Another benefit of having an on-the-scene adviser is as a brake. Some clients are tempted to take a dumb step, such as buying a second home they don't need and can't afford, or selling all their stocks when the market inevitably drops. Your adviser is far more likely to catch wind of your screwy plans than is a faceless entity on the other end of a wire with whom you speak once in a great while.

AdviceIQ is a network of financial advisors that writes insightful articles for the public about investing and wealth management. All articles are edited by AdviceIQ's editor in chief, Larry Light. AdviceIQ certifies that all its advisors have no regulatory infractions.

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AdviceIQ is a network of financial advisors that writes insightful articles for the public about investing and wealth management. All articles are edited by AdviceIQ's editor in chief, Larry Light. AdviceIQ certifies that all its advisors have no regulatory infractions.

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