With boatloads of data and other financial information available on the Internet, it has never been easier to do your own investing. And there's nothing quite as gratifying and empowering as doing exactly what you want to do with your own hard-earned cash.

What's more, with traditional pension plans going the way of the dinosaur, all of us are expected to take control of and manage our retirement savings—whether it's through an employer-sponsored 401(k), IRA or other special account. Making sure we have enough to live comfortably in our old age falls squarely on our own shoulders. So, first things first when it comes to financial planning. Use the retirement worksheet in the tools section to determine how much you'll need to retire comfortably.

Being your own financial planner means you make all the overall decisions as well as get involved in the nitty-gritty of choosing specific investments. This Money Group guide is designed to help you and your group members prepare on both fronts. However, there are times, like in the scenarios below, when it makes sense to ask for help from a professional financial planner. For instance:
  • When you're too busy. Smart investing takes time and hard work. If you're often swamped, the most responsible thing you can do is wave the white flag and hire someone to help.
  • When you're in transition. Starting a family, going through a divorce, losing a spouse, getting a big promotion, receiving an inheritance or taking on responsibility for an aging parent are all big life transitions that can affect your finances and trigger the need for good, solid planning help.
  • When you're suffering from inertia. When it comes to actually choosing investments, making the calls and doing the paperwork—you freeze. A planner can help jump-start that process for you.
  • When you're starting your own business. A planner can help with some of the more complicated financial aspects of your new role as a business owner, such as what type of insurance you'll need, what kind of self-employed retirement plan you should use and how long you can manage on a minimal salary.
10 questions to help you decide what's right for you

Please note: This is general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your own financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, including investments or changes to your portfolio, and a qualified legal professional before executing any legal documents or taking any legal action. Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities are not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your financial or legal decisions.


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