How to get good financial advice on a budget

Dollars and Sense

How to get good financial advice on a budget 

Financial advice doesn't have to be expensive, but it does need to be, well, good. So, how can you find a source you understand and trust? Here are several places to start.  

By Louis DeNicola August 30, 2021

 

It can be difficult to know where to turn for financial advice—especially when you're on a budget.  

Perhaps you have a straightforward question, but every friend and family member has a different answer. Or you want a personalized financial plan, only to find it will cost several thousand dollars. (Nevermind, then.)  

Good advice doesn't have to be expensive, but it does need to be, well, good. So, how can you find a source you understand and trust? Here are several places to start.  

Finance blogs, podcasts, and social media 

Whether you're interested in cryptocurrencies or how to retire early, chances are you'll find someone in the digital space talking about it. But that's a blessing and curse. Content creators may deem themselves as financial experts, but it’s always good to check their credentials. You can start by verifying if someone has the certification they claim:  

  • If someone says they’re a Certified Financial Planner, you can check their standing on the CFP Board website.   
  • The American Bar Association has links to each state’s licensing agency for checking attorneys’ credentials. 
  • CPAVerify can help you verify a firm or individual Certified Public Accountant license.   

Also, consider whether a certification aligns with the type of advice you’re after. For example, a CFP professional may not necessarily know how credit scores work, just as a CPA who specializes in corporate tax might not be your go-to source for individual tax advice. Keep in mind that many websites and content creators make money by promoting certain financial products or services. The kickbacks they receive may impact their recommendations. 

Banks, credit unions, brokerages, and nonprofits 

These institutions often have free or low-cost educational resources for customers. You could also check nearby universities, military bases, and faith-based organizations. Just remember the potential for bias. For instance, bankers may be incentivized to promote their companies’ products, even if they may not be the best option for you. 

Tip: Look into the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. It offers free tax preparation and filing for eligible taxpayers every year.

Credit counseling agencies 

While some credit counseling agencies charge a small fee for certain services, many are nonprofits, and you can ask about fee waivers. Look for an accredited agency, such as one that's part of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling

Many of these agencies offer more than credit advice. They may be able to help you create a budget, prepare to buy a home, and offer other personalized financial advice. If you’re struggling with credit card debt, counselors may even be able to negotiate with your credit card issuers to lower your monthly payments, get fees waived, and put you on a managed path toward paying off the debt.  

Employee benefits 

Financial wellness is becoming an increasingly important part of employee benefits packages. The specifics can vary, but you might get complimentary time with a financial advisor or access to online trainings.  

If you have one, your employer’s retirement plan provider may also have investing-related materials and tools. For instance, there might be a guide on how to start investing or calculators for determining how much you should save for retirement.   

Ask your human resources department about other benefits, such as a workplace legal plan that gives you discounted access to an attorney. 

Financial wellness apps 

While some apps may be more geared toward investing, monitoring your financial assets, or tracking your spending, apps like Upwise can help you develop a strong money mindset and create positive habits that move you closer to your personal goals. Try it, and see for yourself.  

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