Thirty minutes? That’s all the prep time you may need before meeting with a financial advisor.

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When you want to build a house, you hire an architect. So, if you want to build your financial future, consider meeting with a professional financial advisor. He or she will offer skills and insights that can be gained only through training and experience.

It may take only 30 minutes to prepare for your first meeting with an advisor. Here’s how to improve your chances of leaving the session with a strategy that addresses your situation.

1. Compile net worth statements (10 minutes)

Gather together the most recent monthly or quarterly statements for all your assets and liabilities. Assets include workplace retirement plans, IRAs, and checking, savings and brokerage accounts. Liabilities include a mortgage, home equity line of credit, car loan, credit card debt, student loans and other debt.

2. Determine monthly expenses (10 minutes)

Prepare a list of your monthly expenses, including housing costs, food, utilities, clothing, child care and insurance as well as smaller expenses like dining out, gym memberships and magazine subscriptions. Account for seasonal outlays, like gifts and entertaining during the holidays and vacation travel during the summer. The idea is to come up with a monthly average that’s accurate for the full year.

3. List goals (5 minutes)

Think about your financial goals, and if you have a spouse or partner, talk about goals with him or her. When do you want to retire? Do you hope to buy a home? Help put your child or grandchild through college? Leave a financial legacy?

4. Consider risk and asset management (5 minutes)

How much investment risk are you comfortable with? Your answer should depend partly on how much time you have available to pursue the goal you’re investing for. For example, if you’re in your mid-30s and investing for retirement, you have time to ride out short-term market swings in pursuit of high, long-term returns. But if you’re nearing retirement or already retired, you may need to rely on your nest egg for current income, which may require more conservative investing.

Think about how much control you want over choosing investments. Maybe you want to manage your assets on your own.  Or, maybe you’d rather rely on professional help. There are several possible approaches that your advisor can discuss with you.

An advisor can help

Consider making an appointment with a TIAA advisor. Ultimately, the advisor will help you create a strategy that’s tailored to your unique situation, education, and meet with you at your request to address changes in your life and help keep you on track toward your goals.

Please note: TIAA does not and cannot provide tax or legal advice. Please consult with your own advisors.

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This material is for informational or educational purposes only and does not constitute fiduciary investment advice under ERISA, a securities recommendation under all securities laws, or an insurance product recommendation under state insurance laws or regulations. This material does not take into account any specific objectives or circumstances of any particular investor, or suggest any specific course of action. Investment decisions should be made based on the investor’s own objectives and circumstances.

Advisory services are provided by Advice & Planning Services, a division of TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services, LLC, a registered investment adviser.