Every adult needs to financially plan.
Notice how I didn't say have "a financial plan" and, instead, emphasized the verb ― “plan.”
That's because I strongly believe that the most impactful outcomes of a financial planning relationship are the conversations that need to take place in order to arrive at the most important part ― goal achievement.
An ongoing financial planning relationship with a trusted financial advisor accomplishes a number of things along the way:
1. Goal development and prioritization: Many people today have very important competing goals (i.e. a child's education, retirement, the next summer vacation). Sitting down with a financial planner can get all interested parties on the same page, and help you prioritize your goals.
2. Pulling together all aspects of your financial life: It's important to understand how each piece of your finances works together. Take, for example, a workplace benefit such as long term disability income insurance. The elimination period and whether or not it's paid for with after-tax dollars would play a part in determining the appropriate levels of cash reserves a family should have in place.
3. Personalized and ongoing case analysis using a principles-based approach: Work with a financial planner that has a principles-based approach. Similar to a pilot flying a plane, a quality planner will employ an extremely disciplined approach while helping you navigate life changes and unexpected circumstances along the way.
4. Implementing tailored strategies: You should expect to be in charge of the relationship. A sound financial planner will provide you (the boss) with multiple possible solutions for each financial goal. After he or she explains, educates, and helps you understand all of the options, it will be up to you to choose and implement the solution.
5. Personal accountability: As stated earlier, a quality financial planner will help you prioritize what is most important. But it doesn't stop there ― holding you accountable to those priorities and goals over time is the essence of what financial planning is all about. Consider it similar to working with a personal trainer or a nutritionist ― individuals who ask others to hold them accountable are more likely to achieve their goals.
6. Ongoing advice that is personalized and timely: Financial planning is not a one-time event or a book of recommendations. Financial planning should help you understand and organize what is important throughout the current year and in subsequent years. For example, reviewing your options during your open enrollment period at work to make sure your choices align with your personal insurance strategies. Or taking advantage of tax or gifting strategies while doing year-end planning.
7. Behavioral coaching and the intangibles: Often times, many people only associate successful planning with a portfolio’s rate of return or various account values increasing. But there is a side to financial planning that I would argue is far more important, yet often goes unrealized. The best financial planners I've worked with in my career focus on behavioral coaching ― helping their clients avoid mistakes along the way. Coupling that concept with money management strategies ― such as withdrawal order of assets in retirement ― is the true essence of financial planning.
In the end, it’s about understanding the challenges and opportunities, controlling what you can control, and protecting what you’ve gained. Tackling these issues is important not only for you, but also your family. Your financial planner should be your partner in that effort. The decisions will be yours, but they will become more manageable with someone guiding you along the way, laying out the choices, and helping you stick with them.
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