Is financial planning a good idea? The short answer is yes, it is definitely a good idea if you want to secure a strong financial future.
Personal financial planning not only helps you budget and set short-term goals but also aids in investments for long-term goals and retirement planning. If you're reading this and retirement seems like a far away thing, you might be wondering is financial planning a good idea when you are young? The answer is, again, a resounding yes. Even early in your adult life, financial planners can help you develop a strategy to address shorter term goals/issues like getting out of debt or buying a home faster and with more confidence that you're doing the right things. Plus, with the power of compounding (sometimes referred to as the 8th wonder of the world), working with a planner can help you start saving and investing earlier, with a ripple effect that can supercharge your ability to achieve goals like travel or a second home and a comfortable retirement.
Before developing your financial plan, consider a consultation with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER© (CFP). There are many financial planning mistakes to avoid, and an experienced wealth management advisor will possess strong knowledge of the opportunities available to you. This knowledge and experience are necessary to ensure a well-rounded financial plan that includes retirement planning, investment products and investment strategies, risk management, insurance planning, and more, and most importantly how they all fit together cohesively.
But how do you know if your CFP is doing all they can for you? Keep reading to gain a better understanding of why financial planning is important and what a financial planner should be doing for you if you already have one.
The Basics of Financial Planning
Should I pay off my debt first or start investing now? How much should I save to pay for my child's college education? What are the chances I'll be able to retire early and still live comfortably? Think of a financial plan as an outline or roadmap of how your finances will intertwine or empower the journeys you will take throughout your life to answer those questions with a bit more confidence. When planned with the aid of a certified financial planner, your financial plan can help you better handle your assets and prepare you to meet future financial goals.
There are many steps involved in creating a financial plan, and ultimately how complex or detailed it gets will depend on your unique situation. If you are considering enlisting a professional, you've likely tipped past the point of basic personal finance into areas you may be unfamiliar with, such as how to choose an investment allocation that matches your needs and how to minimize tax burdens that can drag performance.
Are you worried you aren’t making enough progress on your current financial plan? Are you hoping to create a better financial plan? A good financial planner will perform the following:
The Do’s of Financial Planning
Make sure you are working with a financial planner that follows these important “do’s.”
A financial planner should help you set both short-term goals and long-term goals when creating a plan. Without clear goals in mind, it will be difficult to develop a plan that enables you to do what you want. Ideally, your financial plan will include several goals to ensure financial security throughout several points of your life.
Focus on Your Personal Needs
A fiduciary financial planner has a legal obligation to provide you with the best advice and recommendations to suit your needs and help you achieve your goals. Work with a financial planner that offers you a personalized perspective based on your current and future financial situation and goals. By providing you with a personal perspective, you’ll be able to ignore a lot of the misinformation you might hear on the news and avoid common financial planning mistakes.
Maximize Retirement Planning
Retirement planning seems common, but you'd be surprised how many fail to start early, maximize employer contributions/benefits, and how many fail to actually invest what is held in a retirement account. Starting to save for retirement early is important, but a financial advisor can help you learn more about the various retirement plan accounts and products that are available to you.
Set Aside an Emergency Fund
It’s very rare that you can get through life without an unexpected emergency or two. This could be anything from a necessary home repair to a significant medical expense. A financial advisor should be focused on helping you build an emergency fund, and if an advisor pressures you to tap into your emergency savings to buy into a new fund or investment product, that can be a red flag that they might not be held to a fiduciary standard.
Keep Emotion Out of Investment Planning
When investing, it is necessary to think with the data, not with emotion. It can be too easy to react to sudden changes in the market and make a mistake or see someone get lucky and think you can jump in to get rich quick. That’s why it is also wise to work with a fiduciary financial planner to aid in building an investment portfolio that is based on long-term evidence. Have the active v passive discussion with your advisor and dig in on the limitations and process through real life situations to know how returns will fair for your asset allocation.
Include Insurance Planning & End-of-Life Planning
A good advisor will also ensure that you and your loved ones are covered in the case of an unfortunate incident. Health related concerns, including untimely death, are some of the biggest disruptors to building generational wealth. End-of-life planning should also be discussed in the form of estate planning.
In fact, it’s one of the main reasons why financial planning is important. If you personally feel confident about understanding your family's finances, consider what would happen if you were gone. Would those left behind have the knowledge and support to make wise decisions and avoid scams? Having an advisor on your side that you trust can make that transition easier. Preparing a will or trust, even considering various powers of attorney, ensures that your end-of-life wishes are fulfilled and your family can continue to succeed financially, a consideration especially important for high-net-worth individuals.
The Don’ts of Financial Planning
When creating your financial plan, it is essential to be aware of some of the most common financial planning mistakes to avoid. Remember these don’ts of financial planning when working with a financial advisor and consider the following red flags.
Don’t Be Unrealistic
After examining your current financial situation, you should have a good awareness of what you can afford to do and the path ahead of you to big goals like retirement. If the financial plan your advisor is suggesting seems unrealistic, be sure to question it. This may not be blatant like someone saying you can retire at 40 with minimal savings, it could simply be over-estimating returns or not factoring in expenses. If your plan isn't realistic, you can quickly be dissuaded or derailed.
Don’t Work with an Advisor That Isn’t Clear About Fees
The old adage "follow the money" is good advice across many industries. Understanding how someone gets paid can help understand what incentivizes them and what may be adding bias. A fiduciary financial advisor should be upfront about how he or she gets paid. If your financial advisor doesn’t provide a clear explanation of the fees you will pay, you should consider finding another advisor to work with.
Don’t Forget to Revisit Your Plan from Time to Time
As you go through life, your financial situation and your financial needs, as well as the needs of your family, may change. Your financial advisor should periodically review and adjust your financial plan as factors change. Everything from increasing salary, having children, or deciding to start a business impact your plan to varying degrees. An outdated plan won't help you when faced with new financial decisions. If your plan continues to remain the same throughout your life, your financial advisor likely isn’t working hard enough for you.
How a Financial Advisor Can Help You
There are two similar questions we hear a lot. First, what can a financial advisor do for me that I can't do myself? And second, is it worth it to pay a wealth manager or financial advisor? The answer to this question isn't cut and dry, but here are some key considerations:
- Value your time. Consider the information about investments, taxes, estate planning, insurance and more that you'd need to get up to speed with and stay current on to steer your financial plan to the level of a team of professionals. If you'd rather spend your time making the most of your success, a financial advisor or wealth manager can be an incredibly freeing option.
- Think objectively. It's difficult to think objectively about your own plan. After all it's your life savings, children's future, and candidly personal baggage around how you feel about money that can cloud your judgement. A financial advisor can help you make decisions based in logic and data, not emotion, to fuel your long-term success.
- Worry less. Even those who feel very on top of their financial plan can feel quietly anxious wondering what their plan is missing. Working with a proactive professional like a Wealth Manager at Plancorp can give you the confidence that comes with working with someone certified in the fiduciary standard to do what's best for you, always. If you've been wondering what your plan is missing, check out our 2-minute financial plan analysis.
What to do When Your Advisor Isn't Measuring Up
Are you already working with a brokerage or a financial advisor but worried they aren't doing enough? Do you want to see if you can create a better financial plan? Consider this guide on how to evaluate your current financial advisor or choose a new one, and get on track to a stronger financial future.