Navigating your personal finances can be a tricky business. Sometimes, a financial mentor is just what you need to get your finances on track. A financial mentor is essentially someone who can help you plan smart strategies for how to spend, save, and invest your money.
Money can get complicated and having a trusted financial mentor can bring clarity and context to your financial decisions and make things like investing and saving a little easier to manage.
Today, anyone with a website and a little bit of knowledge can claim to be an expert, so follow these steps to be sure you find a mentor whose intention is to truly help you.
Decide What You Want in a Mentor
First, take an honest look at your situation. List out your financial strengths and weaknesses, and set some goals. If you have a pretty good grasp of your personal budget but need guidance to break into the housing market, you might want to sit down with someone in your family who owns property and knows what it’s like to be a first-time house hunter.
If, on the other hand, you’ve tried—and failed—on numerous occasions to get a savings or retirement account built up, you may be in search of a money mentor who understands the vagaries of life and everyday finances.
Professionals and budding investors may want to hire a financial advisor to help put their money to work, but may not have the money to spend on one. This is where a financial mentor comes in handy.
Solidify Your Perspective
Before you begin your search in earnest, there’s one thing you may want to do, and continue to do throughout the entire process. Write down your goals and two questions to be answered about every step of the process: Will this help me meet my goal? Will this work well for my life?
This is important to not only help you remain focused but to remember that personal finance is just that—personal—and a legit mentor should always work toward your agenda, not theirs. Make it your screensaver, set a repeating reminder, or whatever method works best so the end goal stays in sight, and in mind.
Find Potential Candidates
Money mentors can come from anywhere—even your own family. Start with your circle of people, and create a list of those who have a good grasp on their finances. Look for relatives, friends or even acquaintances who successfully run small businesses or manage their debt well.
Partnering with a mentor whom you already know can not only save you money, but it also begins with a deeper level of trust. In many cases, people may also be more comfortable opening up to someone who isn’t a stranger.
If you need to reach outside your social circle, ask around for referrals. Word of mouth and personal references are typically much more reliable than a Google search, especially if you’re a beginner.
In fact, some wealth “gurus” prey on those who are inexperienced with money by selling overpriced programs that don’t offer much value, so the more you can rely on personal reputation, the better.
That said, the internet isn’t awash with predators waiting to take advantage of you. But if you head to the web, start with professional sites like LinkedIn, proceed with caution, and make ratings and reviews your friend.
When it comes to holding businesses and individuals accountable, they’re one of the greatest benefits of social media. Look for mentors who have both a high rating and a high number of reviews that sound relatable to you and your goals. (Even a comment as simple as “He was only available during work hours,” could be a negative for someone who has a day job.)
Find ‘The One’
Once you narrow your search to a few potential mentors, make a list of questions to ask them, and to ask yourself. Here are a few to get you started:
For potential mentors:
• How long have you been a coach?
• What’s your business specialty?
• What’s your greatest financial success/failure?
• Have you ever been in my situation? What did you do about it?
• What is your availability?
• What’s your plan to help me reach my goals?
• Can I relate to this person?
• Do they present themselves as a financial success story?
• Do they know how to teach?
• Are they truly listening to me?
• Are they trying to sell me anything?
• What’s my gut reaction?
As you evaluate your answers, remember to keep your original goal in mind and be strict, because you aren’t looking for three or four mentors that might work out. You’re looking for the start of a beneficial relationship. Once you’ve found “the one,” make the leap and ask for guidance.
Be a Good Student
During your first few meetings, work together with your mentor to set expectations and lay the groundwork. Determine a plan, how you’ll get there, and how often you’ll communicate.
And remember that as much as you expect them to be a good coach, you should be a good student. Listen closely, take good notes, and implement your mentor’s suggestions. And, if at any point you feel like your mentor has ulterior motives or doesn’t have your best interests at heart, it’s your prerogative to back out.
Turn to Tech
If your social circle is lacking in financial gurus or you don’t have the budget to hire a pro, consider tech as your teacher. There is a wealth of resources on the internet where you can learn about money. Of course, you’ll want to proceed with caution on the internet—you can’t believe everything you read, and you might want to seek out multiple sources to verify claims.
Find a reputable source that you find interesting—there’s no shortage of financial content. From blogs to podcasts, websites, and magazines, there’s something for everyone. Building a solid educational foundation can go a long way when it comes to managing your finances.
If you’re ready to take the next step, consider opening an account that offers advising or automated investing. At SoFi, we’ve launched SoFi Invest® which offers just that. With an invest account with SoFi, you gain access to human financial advisors who will work with you to set your goals and risk tolerance.
You’ll also benefit from automated investing technology, that will automatically rebalance your portfolio to stay in line with your goals and risk tolerance. And you can begin investing with as little as $1.
Another fantastic option to kickstart your savings is SoFi Money®, a cash management account, where you can save and spend in one place. With SoFi Money you can take advantage of the ease of online access with perks like photo deposits, online transfers, and excellent customer service just a touch away.
In addition to the convenience, one of the biggest benefits of SoFi Money is there are no account fees (subject to change). With SoFi Money you can know that your money is going toward your financial goals instead of going to fees.
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