I’m 56 and plan to retire at 62. I will have both public pensions and social security – but I also have a child starting college that I want to pay for. Do I need professional help?

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Question: I’m 56 and work for a state university, so I will have a state retirement plan. Previously, I worked full time and contributed to social security for 20 years. I still work part-time and contribute to social security. I plan to retire in six years when I turn 62, and recently started working with a major bank, but I’m not satisfied with their services. I have a child starting college this year and I need to know if I should hire a financial advisor and how they could help me pay for college. (Looking for a financial advisor too? This tool can help you find an advisor who might meet your needs.)

Answer: Juggling retirement and tuition costs is often stressful. Hiring a financial advisor is certainly worth considering, especially since many advisors will provide a free consultation to see if they can help you and if they are right for you. That said, hiring the right person is key, and you might not need them at all. Here’s what you need to know.

First, let’s explore what a financial advisor might be able to help you with and how to find a good one. In addition to investment and retirement advice, many can help you figure out how much and in what ways you could afford college. (Remember: if you’re not quite ready to fund your own retirement, you’ll want to limit how much you pay for college; your child can get student loans.)

Do you have a problem with your financial advisor or are you looking to hire a new one? Email picks@marketwatch.com.

“Since you waited until just before college started to do your planning, your options are limited. You’ll want to figure out your budget, figure out how much you’ll save each year, figure out if you’re eligible for education tax credits, and decide whether to borrow money for college and, if so, how much,” explains Certified Financial Planner Ann Garcia, author of How To Pay for College. These are things an advisor can help you with, if you go down this path. (Looking for a financial advisor? This tool can help you find an advisor who might meet your needs.)

An advisor can also look at the best way to increase and consolidate the retirement savings you have, while balancing your desire to pay for your education. Additionally, “they may be able to help uncover things you may not have been aware of or opportunities such as 403(b) programs and the effect of retirement from public service. on your Social Security benefits such as the Fallout Elimination Provision (WEP), if that applies to you,” adds Certified Financial Planner Joshua Flatley of X Vector. (The WEP changes the way benefits are calculated and may reduce retirement or disability benefits if they receive a pension.)

Additionally, a good financial advisor will look at the impact of your retirement plan, state pension, and social security on your taxes and “use strategies to minimize the amount of lifetime tax paid, as well as to position your retirement plan to generate the desired amount of retirement income,” says Ivan Havrylyan, Certified Financial Planner at Orbit Financial Planning.

So how do you find the right advisor? First, you’ll want to make sure you’re working with an advisor who has experience helping families pay for education, says certified financial planner Jason Siperstein of Eliot Rose Wealth Management — as well as extensive experience in retirement planning. Some advisors list their areas of expertise or specialty on their websites, but if you don’t see it listed for you, you can ask them about their experience with certain issues. You can also ask for references and talk to real people they’ve helped with a specific topic.

Here are the 15 questions you should ask any advisor you might want to hire, and how to screen the person as well. Consider checking out the National Association of Personal Finance Planners (NAPFA), Garrett Planning Network, and XY Planning Network to find advisers who have credible designations. (Looking for a financial advisor? This tool can help you find an advisor who might meet your needs.)

Also, while many advisors work on the asset-under-management model, charging you a percentage of your assets to manage your investments for you, in your case, you might want to consider a different type of advisor. Indeed, consider an advisory-only financial planner, who will charge you a fixed hourly rate or a fixed project rate to advise you on paying for college and preparing for retirement in 6 years. “The Advice-Only Planner will never seek to manage your investment portfolio, and it will only focus on practical planning and advice without selling you investment management products or services,” says Certified Financial Planner Kaleb Paddock of Ten Talents Financial Planning.

If you want to save even more money, you may be able to avoid an advisor altogether. Investor.gov offers free financial planning tools, edX offers a free self-structured college course, Ramsey Solutions offers a $129 course with a 14-day free trial that provides money management apps and a community forum and the nonprofit Khan Academy offers 9 free personal finance courses.

Any advice, recommendations, or rankings expressed in this article are those of MarketWatch Picks, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by our business partners.

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