Financial matters — earning, spending, saving — can be relatively simple for people starting out. But that can change very quickly as:
- Personal situations and responsibilities change.
- Career or business opportunities develop.
- Health issues, perhaps for you or someone else, arise.
In many cases, a little professional guidance can make a big difference in the long run. And, knowing such issues will come up sooner or later, planning for them ahead of time can make sense.
“Events will happen in life where you’ll likely benefit from a little help,” said J. Todd Gentry, a financial professional with Synergy Wealth Solutions in Chesterfield, Missouri. “Of course, it’s better if you started out from a holistic planning perspective. Typically, you’re able to have a greater impact when you have more time to let some of the ideas work their magic and prepare you for things, rather than reacting to a sudden need. It’s kind of like a crockpot meal versus a microwave dinner.”
Still, if you haven’t already planned ahead, there are specific times when reaching out to a financial professional will likely be something to consider. (Need a professional? Find one here)
Why? These days, many financial programs for consumers, like retirement planning, health care management, or college saving, are self-directed. Understanding how various programs work and keeping up with any recent changes can take a lot of time and prior knowledge. Additional expertise is usually needed to understand how various programs work with one another and may affect your individual retirement or savings circumstances. In short, many people find that a financial professional saves them time and money in the long run. (Learn more: How working with a financial professional pays off)
“People’s financial lives are a lot like flying a plane,” said Doug Collins, a financial planner at Fortis Lux in New York City. “It’s tough to get off the ground, and even tougher to land the plane, which is analogous to just starting out and retiring. If you do the proper planning for takeoff and landing, the flying is easy.”
The definition of a life event can be wide-ranging, but it usually involves changes to your personal living circumstances and responsibilities.
For many people, these typically include:
But, depending on a variety of factors, life events can also include:
As personal situations evolve, each new scenario must be measured against your resources and long-term needs for things like retirement and health care. As life goes on, understanding the effects of changes can get more complicated.
“Whatever your age, it will dawn upon you that you have to balance this new situation against your spending, taxation, investment and accumulation, education funding, and all the other various pieces you may have in your life,” said Gentry. “You’ll want to get your arms around all of the various financial matters, and you may need help to do that.”
Career or business developments
Your first job, ideally, may be the start of a long and fruitful career. It can also be a time to begin a basis for approaching what will hopefully be gains and opportunities down the road. Again, that’s where some advance planning could be useful.
“I think when people are young and starting to make money is the best time to start planning,” said Jackie Dorsey, a financial professional with Coastal Wealth in Tampa, Florida. “That includes starting a new job.”
Planning guidance can be particularly useful in terms of deciding how to take advantage of a company’s benefits program. Most corporate retirement programs are self-directed and group insurance coverage sometimes have shortcomings. A financial professional can help you understand the long-term implications of the choices involved.
Additionally, a variety of things can happen in the course of a career, including:
- Changing employers
All of these can have an impact on your immediate finances and financial plan for the future.
If you are a business owner or entrepreneur, or operate as a freelancer, the knowledge needed for sound financial decision-making is greater still. Beyond managing your business, there can be a variety of financial questions for you personally, from valuation to passing on your ownership interest to ensuring your own retirement.
For most people, health is critical to their ability to earn a living and care for their loved ones. That is why, beyond following a healthy lifestyle, disability income insurance and life insurance are important. Additionally, on average, people are living longer. And, with age, health issues typically arise.
Obviously, planning for such eventualities ahead of time is advisable. Still, sometimes planning is put off or the unexpected can occur. This can include for you or a loved one:
- A sudden illness or disability
- An early cancer diagnosis
- Diminished mental capacity
- Hospice needs
In such situations, and many more, professional financial guidance can help sort out the possibilities for financial support and resource options.
“Ideally, you would do your financial planning prior to any sort of health event,” said Gentry. “If you don’t, it will certainly limit some of the options or tools and tactics you have available. But in the absence of that, if in fact you have a health issue, professional input would be necessary and important to understand the options available for handling it.”
There are, of course, other situations where reaching out to a financial professional for guidance might make sense. Some of these situations may come as a surprise.
“When people receive an inheritance, bonus, big raise, or other large sum of money, they should consider seeking out professional financial guidance,” said Dorsey.
Other times, it may be because of an external change.
“Anytime the tax code changes, your planner should understand how the changes may impact your current financial situation or mitigate them,” said Gentry.
In the end, given the range of circumstance where financial guidance could be useful, it may make sense to establish a relationship with a financial professional early. But, in the absence of that, at least be aware of the situations where specific financial guidance may be wise.
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