If you had 20 minutes to ask a certified financial planner anything about your finances — no strings attached — what would it be?
With a large student loan debt looming over them, Rosie and Nick Thelen of Forest Lake spent months wondering if they should buy a house. “We want to see what we can manage,” said Nick Thelen.
Other common questions concern estate planning, budgeting and Social Security benefits.
Attendees at last week’s free “Financial Planning Day,” many of whom had never met with a financial planner before, said that having a professional answer lingering questions was a weight off their shoulders. “I’m going to make some changes to make better choices in my 401(k),” said Michael Ande of St. Paul, who wanted help choosing the best mutual funds in his retirement account.
This was the sixth year that the Minnesota chapter of the Financial Planning Association has held the free event. It includes seminars and no-strings consultations in which consumers spend 20 minutes asking questions from planners who are not allowed to contact attendees afterward unless they request an appointment.
“People who are anxious about money are closed off to options,” said Ross Levin, a keynote speaker at the event and president of Accredited Investors in Edina. “They can always find an excuse to delay action on an uncomfortable topic.”
Barb Johnson of Burnsville attended the annual event for the third time. “Last year I had a question about whether I could stop working before full retirement age and get full benefits,” she said. “The answer was no, so I’m going to work until 2017. It was a hard thing to hear, but at least I know my options.”
For Johnson, attending the seminars has given her a goal and a date certain rather than a nebulous retirement date somewhere in the future. This year, she wanted advice on how to grow her retirement nest egg without too much risk. “I know now that if I hang in for a couple more years that I can really kick up my heels and do an end zone dance,” she said laughing.
According to a 2015 Planning & Progress study by Northwestern Mutual, only 11 percent of Minneapolis residents have developed a written plan to address financial goals with an adviser.
Chris Farrell, a speaker at the event and senior economics editor for American Public Media, said that personal financial planning is more important than ever. “Many of our parents had traditional pension plans and a savings account,” he said. “They didn’t have to think about it much.”
Rochelle Hayes of Woodbury was hesitant to attend at first. “African Americans like me don’t trust a lot of people, but I wanted information to empower myself,” she said.
She asked an adviser if her 401(k) investments were appropriate and then went to a workshop on taking control of her finances. “I found out about some FDIC savings accounts online that pay higher interest than your bank. I can’t wait to get home and check it out,” she said.
The state chapter of the Financial Planning Association holds the free event every year in October. Next year’s event will be held Oct. 29.
For more information, go to www.financialplanningdays.org/twincities. A list of certified financial planners in Minnesota can be found at www.fpamn.org. Families with an adjusted gross income under $40,000 or singles under $20,000 can receive free financial planning assistance at fpamn.org, click on consumers and then “pro bono outreach.”