Should you DIY or hire a financial adviser?

Elderly woman talks to financial adviser in her home.

Personal finance may not be rocket science, but some situations require a professional touch.

Moving, retiring or sending a kid off to college? Probably ask a pro.

But if you just have a 'meat and potatoes' kind of portoflio with a 401K, an IRA and a college savings plan you'll probably be safe going DIY.

How do you know when to bring in a professional adviser or go DIY on your finances? Reporter Lindsay Gellman wrote about making that decision for the Wall Street Journal, and says anyone nearing retirement age should really consult the wisdom of a pro.

"The conventioanl wisdom is that when you start getting ready to retire things get complicated even for a financially savvy investor," Gellman says. "There are a lot of things in the mix when you're getting ready for retirement. If there's a spouse in the picture you have to decide at what point to start taking benefits like Social Security. You might have a pension. There are a lot of decision to be made and you might not have all the tools at your disposal."

If you decide to go DIY, Gellman writes, make sure you use all the free financial tools availble to you like apps and websites that help you automate and track your payments.

"Those sites allow you to track your spending and they organize it for you in these colorful charts and graphics. You can see 'Wow, I've really spent a lot on entertainment this month.' And you can set up alerts that ping you when you're approaching an amount you set for yourself."

About the author

David Lazarus is an American business and consumer columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

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