When it pays to hire a pro

You always want to save money where you can but there are certain tasks when hiring a pro is to your advantage.

Money Magazine's Senior Writer Donna Rosato shares six surprising cases when it's better to hire a professional rather than do it yourself with "Early Show" co-anchor Chris Wragge.

When to Use a Pro:

Caring for Aging Parents



Finding a Pro:


According to Rosato, when you're caring for your parents you just might not have the time or skills or you live far away from your folks. It's just really hard to go through some of the things you need to do. For example, filling out Medicare and Medicaid paperwork.

A geriatric-care manager can help you find and vet a home health aide, accompany your mom and dad to medical appointments, they can help out if you need to move them to a nursing home or assisted living, and they can help with complex Medicaid or Medicare paperwork. It can take hours, and if you don't do it right, it will take a lot longer. It's one of those things where if you do it wrong the first time it gets kicked back over and over.

She also points out that it's not inexpensive, they always first charge an assessment fee that can run $300-800 - for them to get a sense of the situation, how complex it is, then they will charge by the hour it ranges from $80-200/hour this depends on what part of the country you're in and what they're doing for you. This peace of mind is worth the cost for most people.

What else is there to consider? You want to go somewhere where folks have some certification; you can find that at National Association of Professional of Geriatric Care Managers -- Caremanager.org. If you're on the home page, there's a tab at the top called Find a Care Manager, you can enter in your postal code or city and state and they will give you a listing of professionals in your area, 10-100 miles from your parents.

When to Use a Pro:

Untangling Medical Bills


$85-150/hour or 35 percent of Final Bill

Finding a Pro:


According to Rosato, this professional is a medical billing advocate. You can spend hours on the phone trying to untangle medical error. You may not have the time or you're just not getting anywhere. Billing advocates are trained to cut through the red tape; they know who to talk to and they have good negotiating skills.

The cost usually happens in one of two ways, she adds, an hourly fee of $85-150/hour or they'll take a cut when your bills are reduced which is typically 35 percent. This can be worth it if you think it's a relatively straight-forward problem or if it's such a big bill because they're not getting a cut if they don't cut down your bill.

Also, you can get a free consultation up front, so they'll let you know what your fee is and what they can do for you.

Billadvocates.com is Medical Billing Advocates of America, where you can find people here who are certified in medical billing. You go right to the home page and then there's tab to find an advocate based on what you need. A recent study shows that 80 percent of hospital bills have some type of error, so in those cases it's helpful to hire a professional to help you resolve the issue.

When to Use a Pro:

Planning for Retirement


Vanguard & T. Rowe Price: Free or $250

Financial Planner:



Finding a Pro:



Rosato points out that it's kind of tricky planning for retirement. You're no longer working so you don't have a chance to recover the money you lose if you make a mistake. You want to make sure you're drawing down your money in a smart way. We believe expertise can be valuable, these pros can figure out how to manage your money from a tax perspective as well as how to make your money last.

One of the reasons you want to use someone to guide you is because say you're not confident or you don't have the expertise of what goes into managing your money into retirement. We recommend using an experienced advisor someone to figure out your withdrawal rate. A lot of major investment firms do offer low cost and even free help, depending on your portfolio size so why not do it. To do it on your own you really have to monitor your assets and it's really time consuming. There's two ways we suggest doing this: Check out where you have your money, the investment firm where you keep your money can offer assistance with this. For example, two big financial service companies that handle a lot of retirement accounts are Vanguard & T. Rowe Price. If you have more than $500,000, they'll give you a free retirement plan or if you make less, they only charge $250.

You can also work with a financial planner. Planners charge $175/hour on average, but for a one time consultation you'll pay $1,000 to $2,500. There are two websites you can find a certified financial planner. One is the Financial Planning Association (FPANET.ORG) and the other one is the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA.ORG)

Financial planners give you a pretty comprehensive analysis, they look at your spending patterns and more. You want to look for a fee only planner, either by the hour or a flat fee. Some financial planners earn a commission on what they sell you, so they might pitch what they make money on that you may not need.

When to Use a Pro:

Installing Gadgets



Finding a Pro:



It's smart to do on more complicated gadgets especially if you're really concerned with losing important files or losing photos. These tech pros charge by the hour and they can really help you by saving a lot of frustration and hours. They do charge by the hour depending on where you live, $50 to $200 an hour. You can find one in your area by going to Fast Teks or Geeks on Call, which are nationwide chains that have local franchises. You should ask about credentials for people installing the gadgets, for example, if you're installing new software on your PC, you should ask to make sure they're Microsoft-certified systems engineer.

Most of the big electronic companies have their own teams. You can get more competitive prices if you work with a local outfit. First you should call wherever you bought the gadget, see what they charge, and then compare it to a local outfit.

When to Use a Pro:

Selling Your Home


Six percent of the sale price

Finding a Pro:


While it's attractive to sell your home yourself because you can save a lot on commissions, with home prices down so much, it would be especially difficult without a good real estate agent in this tough housing market, plus doing a For Sale By Owner is quite time-consuming.

The typical real estate commission is six percent across the U.S. but you can always negotiate for a lower commission and there are discount brokers who take lower fees in exchange for providing fewer services. Of course, more experienced full service agents, especially in areas where homes are sitting on the market a long time, will command six percent. Shop around and get quotes from at least three experienced agents. Ask if they will offer you a discount.

You want to find someone who has been selling homes for awhile. Find realtors who are licensed. It goes by state. You can go to The Association of Real Estate Licensed Law Officials (ARELLO.COM) to see if the realtor has a license or not. Another good way to find someone is getting referrals. You can also look up recent sales and look up the realtor, but if you want to screen realtors, one of the questions you should ask is, "How many homes have you sold recently?"

When to Use a Pro:

Booking a Big Trip



Finding a Pro:


If you're planning a special vacation, like a honeymoon or expensive trip overseas to somewhere you've never been, it can pay to use a travel agent who specializes in that destination," Rosato explains. Though most travel agents don't charge fees these days, the most experienced agents do and they can provide lots of value.

For examples, agents that specialize in cruises still get paid hefty commissions from cruises lines to book their cruises and also offer special promotions to agents.

A travel specialist usually charges $150-350 as a fee. They fees range up to $800 but that's something extravagant like a trip with lots of stops or say a cruise around South Africa on a luxury yacht.

Concierge.com only has agents with a lot of experience. Click on Tools and Resources, they have a travel agent finder. When you go to that page there's a link to cruise specialists and it lists all different cruises. They really vet the agents to make sure they're the most experienced.

Travel agents who book your trip can also be a great resource if you run into any snags, such as missed or canceled flights.