Two questions -- how can I (we) increase income from our investments to keep up with inflation with no risk and how can I find a good, inexpensive financial adviser -- arrive in almost every mail. Unfortunately, there are no really satisfactory answers to either question.
Yield from any investment is a measure of risk -- low yield, low risk, and vice versa -- within limits. The financial markets tend to place a value on every investment with the consensus setting on a low yield-risk ratio that varies with time as the environment changes. Thus -- no surprises. There are few hidden bonanzas where an investor gains a greater return without assuming some additional risk.
Even more frustrating is the dilemma facing individuals or couples who may have worked and saved for years to build a limited nest egg for retirement. They need help to plan an investment program that will optimize their income when they retire. Few objective advisers are available who charge a reasonable fee for small portfolios. "Advisers" may use a contact to sell their product -- stocks and bonds by a broker, more insurance by an agent, certificates and other products by a bank and others with special ways to invest cash. Specialists who are experienced and equipped to develop a broad financial plan that considers all options for a fee and who do not sell a product are expensive if they are good and should be avoided if they're not.
Understanding these limitations, you might consider one or all of the following:
* Locate the instructor of a person financial planning course at your local university, community college, or high school. If the instructor is not moonlighting from a regular job as an insurance agent, stockbroker, or banker but is a faculty member, he or she may offer private counseling. Or, you could register in the course as one step toward developing your own expertise.
* There really is no substitute for understanding enough about the financial planning process to either do it yourself, pull together opinions from experts, or ask the right questions. Studying a number of financial books can help. For a free copy of a reading list of recent books, send a self-addressed, stamped No. 10 (long) envelope to Moneywise, Box 102, Mercer Island, Wash. 98040.
* Look for a Certified Financial Planner. These advisers may be selling a financial product, but they have completed a course in broad financial planning and follow a code of ethics that requires an overall look at a client's situation. If your inquiries do not locate a CFP in your community, write to Institute of Certified Financial Planners, 9725 E. Hampden Ave., Denver, Colo. 80231 for a contact near you.
* Ask among your friends or professional associates for a lead to a financial planner who may be willing to work with you for a reasonable fee. More advice-only planners are filling this long-felt need, and through the shared use of computers, prices for broad plans are coming down.
* You can collect information from a vareity of sources, such as stockbrokers , insurance agents, attorneys, tax advisers, real estate agents, or others and pull all the information into a coherent package yourself -- another reason for fully understanding the process. Investing time and effort by attending a financial planning class or reading could be on of your most productive activities.