Ask Money

Green Cards and Social Security

Chris Farrell Apr 21, 2008

Question: I have 2 questions: 1: Is it true only US Citizens can collect SS when they retire; Green card holders do not qualify?

2: I have a Net Worth of about $300K, making up of Cash (60%), Stocks (25%), real estate (10%) and 401K(5%). Should I have a personal financial planner to handle my finances? If so, do you have any recommendations, and how much would it cost? Thank you. Ed, Seattle, WA

Answer: Green Card or Permanent Resident Card holders pay Social Security taxes, and receive Social Security benefits when they retire (as long as they’ve worked for 10 years before retiring). Immigrants can get more information at the Social Security Administration’s website.

Your second question is a much bigger one. Briefly, my bias is no, you don’t need to hire a financial planner. That is, not until you can do the basics of financial planning on your own. No matter what, you’ll need to educate yourself first. Here’s why: Over the years, one of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make is turning their money over to a professional and assume they’ll do all the work. That’s a recipe for trouble. And it takes time to find a good planner that you’ll want to work with.

However, if you’d like a quick check up that focuses mostly on your portfolio (rather than the whole estate), Ive become a fan of the financial planning services offered by several of the major mutual fund companies. The fees are minimal, and the ones I have looked at are steeped in modern portfolio theory and sound personal finance practice. For instance, they won’t try and get you to heavily trade stocks and bonds. You do have to be comfortable working over the phone and by email. The advice is limited, so I’d take it with a grain of skepticism. But it’s also a nice way to check your assumptions and preferences.

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