The 3 most important people in your financial life

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Warren Buffett, one of the world’s wealthiest people and most influential voices in investing and finance, acknowledges that he wouldn’t have reached those heights without guidance from three individuals: his father, Howard Buffett; his late first wife, Susan Buffett; and his mentor, Benjamin Graham.

While advice and guidance may not make you a billionaire like Buffett, it can benefit you in profound ways. Everyone needs somebody who understands their lives, their goals, and their concerns and wishes. Having someone to turn to for guidance or answers can offer peace of mind that money cannot buy.

Aside from your significant other, here’s a look at three likely candidates to play that important role in your financial life:

1. A financial planner

Just as a person needs a primary care physician to serve as the focal point for their health care, they need a point person to support their financial health and provide a general plan to connect their goals with their resources. Make sure that person is a Certified Financial Planner.

Working with a CFP professional ensures that you’re getting a true fiduciary, an adviser who is obligated under the terms of their professional license or designation to always put the interests of their clients first, above their own interests and those of their firm or the company (or companies) whose products and services they represent. To find a CFP professional in your area, check out the Financial Planning Association’s searchable national database, at www.PlannerSearch.org.

From investing wisely to planning for retirement and tackling all of the nuts and bolts of your complex financial life, your financial adviser is your guide.

2. An accountant or tax specialist

Depending on your needs, the complexity of your circumstances and your stage in life, you might benefit from specialized tax advice from an accountant or tax specialist. Tax strategies can play a significant role in preserving your assets.

However, remember to not let the “tax tail wag the dog.” By that, I mean don’t let the amount of capital gains tax owed on the sale of an asset – whether a stock, bond, real estate or business – dominate your decision-making process.

That’s one of the most common mistakes investors make. By having a well thought-out and coordinated plan with all your advisers, this mistake is easily avoided.

3. Your executor, successor or co-trustee

In the context of estate planning, an executor or trustee is responsible for making sure all assets are accounted for and transferred to the right party (children, charity, etc.).

An executor is legally obligated to follow your instructions and to act in the best interest of all beneficiaries. This is a huge responsibility. Choose wisely and review your choice every few years or so to be sure the person is still in your life and up to the task.

JASON E. SIPERSTEIN, CFA, CFP, is the president-elect of the Financial Planning Association of Rhode Island and president of Eliot Rose Wealth Management. He can be reached by email, at

jes@eliotrose.com.