Financial Planning Process
The Need for Financial Planning: Everyone faces financial issues and challenges. How we face these issues can determine not only the quality of our own lives, but also that of our loved ones’ lives. Financial challenges that most people can expect to face include:
- Accumulation goals: We all need to save money. Educating our children is one common goal. Buying a home and building an investment portfolio are two additional typical accumulation goals.
- Financial Independence: It is wise to take steps now and work toward achieving financial independence by the time you are ready to retire. Saving and investing to meet this goal is paramount to a secure future.
- Estate Planning: Recognizing that death is inevitable, it is vital to plan for the ultimate transfer of our assets to our children and other heirs.
Cash Management: More than just keeping a balanced checkbook, cash management includes preparing–and following–a budget, using credit wisely, and keeping one’s income tax burden to the lowest level possible. Cash management includes disciplined savings or “paying yourself first.”
Risk Management: Risks associated with loss of life and property are ever present. Life insurance can be used to help protect a family in the aftermath of a premature death. Disability income insurance can help mitigate the loss of a person’s ability to earn a living. Property and casualty insurance can help replace worldly goods against accident and such perils as fire, flood, earthquake, and theft.
THE FINANCIAL PLANNING PROCESS
Financial Planning in a complex world requires working cooperatively to solve problems. It is not easy, but it can be done. Two basic steps are involved. First, one must recognize that in an ever-changing world, specialized help is required. It is important to assemble a financial planning team, which includes trained professionals, such as your attorney, CPA, life insurance agent, securities broker, and financial planner. Often the financial planner assumes the role of team leader in the process.
With the help of your team, you are ready to take the second step: develop a financial plan or a systematic, integrated plan for dealing with each of your unique financial issues. It is vital that your advisors can communicate with each other and work cooperatively.
This process can be summarized in the following steps:
- Defining a client’s present financial position. This includes identifying income sources and amounts; expenses; assets and investments; liabilities and debts; liquidity; insurances; group or employer-provided benefits; and other special circumstances.
- Developing a well-defined, client-driven set of goals and objectives to work toward. Examples include: tax minimization; cash flow and debt management; protection; risk management and estate planning; investment and portfolio; return on investment; retirement or financial independence; college education funding; specific capital purchases; and gifts to charity.
The planning process usually occurs over several meetings, depending on the complexity of one’s financial situation. To begin, clients fill out a Confidential Financial Questionnaire and gather supporting documents, including tax returns, paycheck stubs, employer provided benefits, investment information and so forth. The process also includes capital needs calculations in the areas of survivorship, disability, education, retirement, and estate planning. All of this material informs the comprehensive written recommendations we develop for each client. Through the Wealth Management and Process on the eMoney platform, we are able to securely organize all of our clients’ personal and family information in one place. We consolidate that information and present it in a way that is easy to understand and available day or night. We partner with our clients to review these recommendations and discuss them in detail, answering any questions before we create an implementation schedule for recommendations in the plan. The implementation of planning recommendations generally occurs over time.
Recommendations might include: reviewing employer provided benefits; purchasing additional life or disability income insurance; managing an established portfolio, establishing a systematic investment plan; reallocating an investment portfolio; implementing tax-reduction strategies; or changing an employer-sponsored benefit program. Other examples include establishing an IRA, pension plan, or education savings plan; retitling assets for tax or asset protection purposes; and updating beneficiary designations in coordination with an estate or special needs plan.
Once the planning process is complete and recommendations have been implemented, we monitor financial progress and review it with our client during regularly scheduled review meetings.