Even financial advisors should work with a financial advisor.

“A financial expert is committed to staying on top of strategies that cover a wide array of topics that would be very challenging for a layperson to have the time to do on their own. In addition to knowledge and experience, they are an objective party. Even financial advisors should work with an advisor to gain a perspective that is not emotionally charged. It is hard to make the right decisions. Even when you know something is right or wrong, pulling the trigger is not easy. We see way too much discussion on fees and not nearly enough on the value an advisor provides. The same principle that applies to hiring a life coach, an athletic coach, or diet coach applies to a financial advisory relationship. We coach people through so many types of decisions over their lifetime. You just can’t put a price on that type of value.”

Jodi K. Miller-Hammes, Continuum Financial Group

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Don’t ignore fees or expenses, no matter how small they may seem.

“Don’t ignore costs within investments. Fees or expenses can appear to be small because they are usually expressed as a percentage, but if investors actually look at the dollar value of the expense or fee on their investment it can be eye-opening. For example 1% per year seems small, well, on $1,000,000 it’s $10,000/year. While 0.10% per year is 1/10 of 1% and would only be $1,000/year in this example. That’s $9,000 more of the investor’s money that could be better utilized than going toward unnecessary expenses or fees. Looking at the actual dollar cost of investing or investment advice is so important!”


Hire a financial expert to reduce stress.

“Financial household management is complex and comprehensive. As two individuals whose expertise lies outside of finance, it can be challenging to know which non-financial expert in the household should make the financial decisions. This undoubtedly causes stress on the decision maker, and can leave the other partner feeling disengaged. By hiring a financial expert, you now have a financial professional helping you (and your partner) make decisions collectively. The combination of having financial appointments and engaging with a professional can create a sense of confidence and direction not otherwise obtained without hiring a financial expert.”

Natalie Slagle, Fyooz Financial Planning

Your biggest investment? It will probably be your house.

“Buying a home will likely be the biggest investment of your life! Historically, real estate has proven to be the most favored long-term investment tool (according to WSJ, Forbes, NAR), so it’s important to work with a Realtor who can advise you throughout the process so you are making a solid investment. Location is the only variable in real estate that cannot be changed and has a huge impact on the ability to sell and make a profit on your purchase.”

Tiffany and Jason Carey, RE/MAX Results

Start small, but start early.

“What’s the one lesson you’ve learned from the investing business you wished everyone realized? The power of compounding growth and letting investments do what they do. Start small, but start early. Don’t try to micromanage investments or make sudden changes. Know what you are saving for.”

Colin Aldis, Thrivent, Rochester Group

Spend a few minutes with a mortgage lender.

“[Everyone should realize] he true importance of CREDIT education. It is incredible how spending a few minutes with a mortgage lender can make a big difference in future qualification for the borrower. As lenders, we are educated on credit factors and can assist with tips and tricks that can aid in your mortgage qualification.”

Crystal Hughley, ONB Bank

Start a budget. Stick to it.

“I’ve learned that, no matter your financial situation, having a budget is a necessity. For those without experience in basic budgeting, it may seem daunting to start. Having a conversation with a banker and filling out a simple budget template (many easy-to-use templates are available online) is what we suggest when first establishing your budget. Even small steps in the right direction with managing your money and contributing to savings can help you in the event of a loss of employment or a large, unexpected purchase.”

Lee Kulas, Home Federal

Understand your credit score.

“One lesson I’ve learned that I wished everyone realized is how important it is to understand your credit. Your credit score impacts so many things in your life—housing, cell phones, and of course loans. The better your score the better your rate and the more money you save in the long run! Once people understand the impacts of the items that make up the credit score, they can work to improve that score!”

Michelle Dodd, First Alliance Credit Union

Listen to the experts.

“The one lesson I’ve learned from the mortgage business you wished everyone realized is ... Listen to the person in front of you and give them your time so you can be certain you both understand the end result. By working together you can make dreams happen.”

Jeanne Struckmann, Altra Federal Credit Union

Have a plan. Get some guidance. Adjust the plan.

“Disciplined investing with an intentional approach to managing spending is so powerful and so important. We make decisions every day that have can have a huge ripple effect financially. How much gets spent on housing, cars, student debt, and eating out will determine how much is left over for your other financial goals. Have a plan, get some guidance, adjust the plan as things change so that it continues to fit what you really value. Unconscious spending can lead to unmanageable debt. Also, investing is about a diversified approach; it is not about picking the next hot stock. That is gambling.”

Jodi K. Miller-Hammes, Continuum Financial Group

Hire someone to help.

“You should hire a fiduciary financial advisor who will spend the time to understand you, who is obligated to work in your best interest, and whose main objective is in helping you achieve your goals.”

Peter Melsness, Superior Financial

Avoid pitfalls. Hire a pro.

“Buying or selling a home is a complicated transaction with many variables and possible pitfalls. While most transactions are completed on time with a happy ending, that’s not always true. It’s vital to have a real estate professional watching the details during the entire process. That assistance can save a buyer or seller thousands of dollars in some situations. With 23+ years of experience, we know what makes a transaction successful and can handle any unexpected problems that may pop up. It’s what we do every day.”

Ron & Lynn Wightman, Randy Brock, Wightman-Brock Real Estate Advisors

What is the biggest financial mistake you see people make when it comes to selling a home?

“Selling your home will likely be one of your biggest financial transactions in your life and it’s important to have a professional on your side to get you top dollar. Overpricing your home, not professionally staging your home, and not properly marketing your home will likely extend the amount of time you are on the market and ultimately get you a lower sales price.”

Tiffany and Jason Carey, RE/MAX Results

Get a raise? Give your investments a raise, too.

“A mistake we see investors make is not adjusting their monthly contribution toward investments to match an increase in income. For example, a couple making $120,000 collectively for several years may be used to saving $500 per month. If their household income increases to $200,000, then their monthly contribution to investments should reflect this increase as well. This isn’t always done automatically, and we see it missed quite often. As your income fluctuates, make sure your investment contributions reflect your household’s appropriate savings rate.”

Dan Slagle, Fyooz Financial Planning

We have coaches for everything. Get one for your finances.

“People have coaches for yoga, their cooking lessons, and many other activities. Talking to a financial professional with whom you have a relationship is a good thing. Most people do not have financial expertise—despite having read the latest newspaper or magazine articles. Finances today are complex. Talking through options with someone who is experienced, having a plan, and checking in often with that person can help a lot, especially with market volatility.”

Colin Aldis, Thrivent, Rochester Group

Find a lender who will work for you.

“You need to work with a lender who is working for the client and not themselves. The product needs to fit the client’s budget/needs.”

Roxanne Hellickson, MBT Bank

Getting a mortgage doesn’t have to be scary.

“Many people have too many questions around a getting a mortgage, so they never start. Getting a mortgage loan doesn’t have to be a scary thing. If you work with the right team you can close a home loan rather quickly and painlessly. The key is working with experts that will communicate with you, be transparent, and efficient throughout the process.”

Kyle Rudesill, PrimeSource Funding

Make a plan. List your goals. Take that vacation.

“The most important thing you can work on today for your financial health is a financial plan. It doesn’t need to be professionally developed, but some sort of written list of goals and priorities. Break the list into two parts: Goals you have to do (i.e. reduce debt), and goals you want to do (i.e. take a vacation). Then break each part into one of two timelines: (1) within the next five years, and (2) five years or longer. Keep the list somewhere where you can review and edit it often. Identify areas that you could use help with (i.e. retirement planning) and seek out competent professionals from sources you trust.”

Don Christenson, Cetera Advisor Networks Located at Mayo Employees Federal Credit Union

Hire a good financial expert. It’s worth it.

“Is it worth it to hire a financial expert? The informed answer is clearly yes, but… only if they are willing to do the work and properly screen for a truly good advisor. The financial industry is no different than anything else: World-class talent, experience, and advice are essentially invaluable and most often turn out to be free in that the value created for the client far exceeds the cost. On the flip side, bad advice is always expensive no matter what you pay for it. Vanguard has published some interesting research on this topic. Their most recent publication on establishing the value of a quality advisor determined that such a relationship can add about 3% in net returns for the client.”

David A. Olson, The BlackRidge Group at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

Bank local. It gives back.

“Banking locally means your money is being invested back into your local community. The money the bank earns is used to support local community groups and non-profits with sponsorship, donations, and volunteering. It also provides income to employees and investors that live local and will be spent at local establishments.”

Crystal Hughley, ONB Bank

Get serious, get successful.

“Financial success doesn’t happen overnight. It requires dedication, patience, and expertise. If you’re willing to seriously commit to those things in the long-term, you will be successful.”

Matt Elliott, Pulse Financial Planning

Don’t time the market. Invest for the long run.

“What is the biggest financial mistake I see people make when it comes to investing? Trying to time the market and not understanding their investment time horizon.”

Peter Melsness, Superior Financial

Don’t try to pick the perfect time.

“Trying to pick the perfect time to buy and sell stocks is generally a bad idea for four reasons: 1) Studies have found that a diversified buy and hold strategy outperforms active timing strategies in the long run. 2) Costs of an active trading strategy tend to be higher than a passive investment strategy. 3) Actively trading investments can be inefficient for taxes and create unnecessary complexity. 4) Actively trading takes time and creates more stress than passive investing.”

Matt Elliott, Pulse Financial Planning

Get that unbiased opinion.

“Hiring a financial planner is important if you need unbiased guidance. All of us have our natural biases when it comes to managing money. Our upbringing says a lot about our saving and spending habits and we carry that forward into our high earning years. An unbiased professional can help your household reduce financial stress and set a plan going forward that you feel comfortable with.”

Dan Slagle, Fyooz Financial Planning

Focus on ‘Time in the market.’

“There is an old adage—that it is ‘time in the market’, not ‘timing the market’—that generates long-term investing success. Many do-it-yourself investors and professionals alike try to predict the markets, and react to them, but it’s not possible to guess which stocks and market segments will outperform from year to year. Reacting to current market conditions and news headlines can often lead to making poor decisions at the worst times.”

Matt Morehead, Carlson Capital Management

Send that money to savings.

“Plan for the unknown! When I say plan for the unknown, I mean build some savings to cover unexpected events. One thing that really helps members is to have an automatic transfer set up to send money into a savings account. Usually, it is done the same day as payroll hits the account so you really don’t realize that small amount is gone. Many times people start with a small amount like $25, then increase it over time or when they get a raise.”

Michelle Dodd, First Alliance Credit Union

Be prepared for the unknown.

“Seek out a lender who has the time, energy, and experience to walk you through the mortgage process. When researching loan options, I suggest clients consider the loan that has a smaller payment vs. their maximum loan amount. This can help people save for emergencies, and to be prepared for the unknown, like a pandemic, rather than being stuck with a large monthly payment.”

Kent Gillespie, Premier Bank Rochester

Don’t go it alone.

“What is the biggest financial mistake you see people make when it comes to investing? Going it alone and having blind spots or missing out on opportunities because they simply don’t know what they don’t know.”

David A. Olson, The BlackRidge Group at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

Finding the right professional is well worth it.

“Why should people hire a financial expert? Is it worth it? Why: To delegate complex or challenging financial matters to a professional that can help guide them on their life journey and help them make rational, wise, and informed financial decisions. Worth it: Yes. There are many reasons it could be worth it, but the three primary reasons I see that make it worth it are: peace of mind, taxes efficiency, and keeping more of their money in their own pocket. Unfortunately, the financial and investment industry is laced with unnecessary expenses, excessive costs, and inefficient advice. So finding a professional that focuses on minimizing expenses and maximizing efficiency while reducing conflict of interest and by being a fiduciary all of the time can be well worth it.


Eliminate conflicts of interest.

“Hiring a financial expert is worth it if the advisor is a fee-only, fiduciary advisor with no conflicts of interest. Only then can an advisor truly sit on the same side of the table with their clients and evaluate what is in their best interest. ... An experienced financial expert can broaden their perspective, enabling them to follow a customized plan that captures key opportunities while preventing them from making costly mistakes.”

Matt Morehead, Carlson Capital Management

Educate young people on finances.

“We need to do a better job at educating young people about managing expectations around debt. Young adults need a clear understanding that all commitments, such as student loans, credit card debt, and car loans greatly affect one’s ability to become homeowners in the future. Awareness around financial decisions and long-term goals can help people to get on a sustainable path to financial success.”

Kent Gillespie, Premier Bank Rochester

Look for industries on the rebound.

“For 2021, you will want to look for industries that have not yet recovered fully from the COVID crisis, such as energy, travel, hotels, and entertainment. Also, from a geopolitical point of view, industries that are likely to benefit from increased government spending. In ALL circumstances it’s extremely important to keep a long-term view (at least 5 years) whenever you invest in stocks, and rebalance the portfolio regularly.”

Randall Ehleringer, Echelon Wealth Partners

Buying real estate is an investment. And a good one.

“Should people view buying a home more like investing? People would ask for a lot more advice, I think, if they were buying $300K worth of stocks. Absolutely true! Buying real estate is an investment, and a good one. The real estate market is like any other commodity: It will fluctuate over time. A home is the single largest investment most people make. Seek advice from an active and experienced Realtor. Understand the risks in the current market conditions. Have short or long term goals firmly in mind. Look closely at all choices and keep the main priorities front and center in the decision-making process.”

Ron & Lynn Wightman, Randy Brock, Wightman-Brock Real Estate Advisors

Have a philosophy.

“The failure to have an investment philosophy is the biggest mistake people make when investing. This manifests itself by making emotional investment decisions. People ‘feel’ like investing AFTER markets have gone up and they ‘feel’ like selling AFTER markets have gone down which everyone understands intellectually is the opposite of what we should be doing. ... Understanding this can go a long way in changing this behavior. A good investment ‘swing thought’ is to think of investing as ‘shopping’ since when you buy a stock you are, indeed, buying ownership in a company. When we go shopping we never get frightened when prices are down. In fact, we get excited and tend to purchase more. Stock market investing should be similar.”

Randall Ehleringer, Echelon Wealth Partners