OK, we're moving into uncharted (for us) tax territory here what with looming retirement, traditional vs roth IRA, RMDs, etc. Various threads here have shown me that we could make some big mistakes that could end us costing us beaucoup bucks and lots of time and aggravation. So how do we find a reliable tax adviser? In the past, we have asked the people we know. Most of them don't have a tax adviser. The few who do have tax or financial advisers don't seem to know how to find a good one any more than I do.
Such recommendations as we got, I didn't trust the adviser. It seems like if you have a less than a million dollars they don't want to bother with you. Or they charge so much that you have to be a millionaire to pay for their services. I end up spending a couple hundred dollars for one session and at the end they say, "Well, let me go through your accounts and come back next week for another session." (for another couple hundred dollars, of course).
So how do you find a knowledgeable, experienced tax adviser who isn't secretly interested in managing you investments? Should I look for an IRS enrolled agent? If my tax questions are relatively simple (basically IRA related) is there some other type of adviser I could consult? Any suggestions?
I would like to preface my suggestions with something I learned only through a quite expensive path looking for financial advisors to do things got us. The lesson: Nobody cares more about your money than you do - look to yourself by educating yourself. A second point would be that all advisors have some financial interest when assisting you. But there are some that have a very ethical obligation when helping to place your interests as the nu8mber one priority. I would put most of those associated with TC in this category (PS: I am NOT nor have I EVER been associated with TC or any other financial advisor.)
Directly from the above statements, we are extremely fortunate to have the Internet that is the most amazing generally available information source the world has ever seen. But we all know that there are a lot of poor or even dishonest information sources there. That just means we have to use our experience and judgment to limit ourselves to "reputable" sources. For instance, Chrysalis, the post that I did on another thread related to computing taxes came directly from a reputable Internet source AND it was verified at several more. So, bring your level of understanding and hone your questions using the Internet so that you get the most benefit from any other path.
Since you are a TIAA-CREF (TC) participant and you are already seeking advice from a great source, myretirement.org, I would STRONGLY recommend that you step up to one of the best forums I have ever encountered and it is directly interested in all things TC, investing and retirement. This forum is highly populated with some of the brightest and most helpful people I have interacted with on the Internet. Many, many are from the university and some from non-profit arenas as required to be a TC participant. And as current and retired teachers and other college-educated people, their advice and especially their fantastic commitment to discussing and educating others, is unbelievable. Just go there and lurk, search previous threads of interest and when you get comfortable with the non-judgmental attitude there sign-up and start posting your questions. You will get excellent advice based on real experiences. See the web page for the TIAA-CREF Funds Discuss Forum at: TIAA-CREF Funds
Many people on that forum have retirement assets large enough to have a specific TC advisor called a Wealth Management Advisor but not all. You might query them to see what level this requires, but they might also be very informed about other specific TC resources that may be available to you.
Chrysalis, after you have explored the above resources and still feel the need for a paid advisor you will have a much better and specific understanding about what you need from this advisor. From your posts here, it is evident that you are interested, curious and well-equipped for succeeding in your financial goals. GOOD LUCK!!! :-))))
Jerry, thank you for the suggestion. The TIAA-CREF Funds forum you describe appears to be a sub-forum within the Morningstar web site. I had no idea that this existed. Thank you for pointing it out.
However, I would still appreciate some advice on how to identify a good, flesh-and-blood financial and/or tax adviser. Anybody have any ideas?
What little experience I have had finding or hearing about tax advisors indicates that local CPA-type tax advisors can be quite economical and some quite expert. We found a CPA when one of our last parents passed by asking a former boss who lost his wife if he could recommend one. He was quite cheap but then we didn't have real sophisticated needs.
I am also quite friendly with an old ex-customer, friend and now resort owner who obviously needs some sophisticated tax advice for his partnership. Whereas I never delve too deeply into those matters with him, I am impressed with the low-cost for a CPA-type to service his tax needs. From that, I might suggest that should you know any small business owner to strike up a conversation that might lead to a recommendation. Then, if you have a lawyer, that recommendation might be very valuable. Even your family doctor or dentist might have excellent suggestions based on their sophisticated needs. These types also use financial-type advisors. I know that because the wife of a previous employee makes a living setting up investment programs for professionals. Just a few suggestions. GOOD LUCK!!! :-))))
Our tax return person is CPA and has specialized in (Presbyterian) clergy for decades.
very good questions. The only person I have (other than estate attorney - elder attorney) is the person who has done our Federal income joint returns beginning 1985 (for tax year 1984).
JerryD's first paragraph response is excellent:
I would just add, that spending your capital (money on which you already paid taxes) before your tax deferred assets will not only minimize your tax bite, but you will reduce your risks, by using future tax deferred assets, to grow your nest egg. Let Uncle Sam assume of your risk too.
Also, your investments should look for the lowest expense funds, because if financial advisors were truly smart, they would sit on the beach somewhere instead of trying to make commissions off your money. Paying commissions to me, is like paying interest, it's money you will not be able to spend on yourself.
Finally, I would trust tax software before I would trust a human, read accountant, who uses tax software. You are just introducing another level of potential errors. Like JerryD said, you owe it to yourself to stay informed.
I just met with a TIAA Cref advisor and he recommends a wealth management guy from TIAA CREF who will look over your portfolio and make suggestions- and its offered to TC clients free! Sounds good to me.
Be careful that you don't get asset allocated over too many investments. IMHO you need to formulate your investment goals first before blindly doing that.
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