Any plan you make is outdated as soon as you finish it. Planning is a PROCESS not and EVENT. To be truly effective, any good plan monitors progress and adjusts to changing conditions. It’s very easy for families who commit to a financial planning process to feel relief when they “finish” the plan, but truly, the preparation of the final plan documents is the beginning of a financial success process, not the end.
Of course, it’s challenging to find time to look at the big picture when you are in the midst of life. With work, kids, family, and community activities, all our lives are pretty full. That’s just one of the benefits of having an on-going relationship with a fee-only, fiduciary, financial planner. You will typically have annual updates on your plan. It’s a nice way to stay on track.
If you don’t have a regularly scheduled financial plan update, here are a few suggestions of great times to pause and review the big picture of your financial plan.
When all is well
It’s common human nature to see the need for a formal strategy when it’s clear you are in some sort of crisis. Of course, planning during a crisis is never a great idea. A far better time to plan is when all is well and there is no pressure. This allows you to be disciplined and mindful about what you “wish” to achieve tomorrow, not the crisis you need to manage today.
When it’s clear you have more than one thing to achieve
As you proceed through life, from time to time you will notice that multiple goals emerge. Maybe you need to save for kids’ college, maybe you are considering a vacation home, maybe you got a promotion and want to be sure you are on track to retire on time. Suddenly, you have plenty you would like to achieve, and we ALWAYS have limited resources.
A review of your financial plan should remind you of your financial priorities and help clarify which goals are more important and where you should focus next. And, looking at the timeline should highlight the goals that are most urgent based on the time that remains to reach the goal.
When things change
When you get married, have a baby, bury a loved one, get a promotion, relocate for work, or have a health event, things change. These are classic signals that you owe your self an update on your financial plan. Often these changes create new needs, or provide new resources, so that some of your baseline assumptions need to adjust. These can be challenging times, so it can be hard to prioritize planning, but this shows another benefit of an on-going financial planning relationship where you already have an annual review scheduled and can use that occasion to include the new information.
When you reach a goal
As you proceed through life, if you are using a reasonable process, you will find that you hit some of your targets.
- Establish the 6-month emergency fund.
- Establish at 20% retirement savings pace.
- Finish paying for kids’ education.
Any of these are cause for celebration. You deserve to recognize the achievement of an important goal. And, you really should acknowledge that your priorities are shifting and your focus may need to change. Again, the on-going annual review is a great tool to adjust as each milestone is reached.
When it’s been a year
It may sound like I’m repeating myself. That’s because I am. 😊 I truly believe that the best way to assure you reach your financial goals is to commit to a long-term financial planning relationship with a fee-only, fiduciary, financial planner. This provides the experience, training and structure to clarify your goals and keep your plans on track by routinely reviewing and adjusting your plan.
A great place to start looking for the right advisor is to talk with a couple CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals.
To find a CFP® professional near you, start your search here.
As you visit with financial planners, I suggest a couple things to check:
- Is the advisor always the client’s advocate – a fiduciary advisor?
- Is the advisor only paid by clients, not any financial product manufacturer or distribution network? That would be a fee-only advisor.
These two points help assure that you are working with a professional who is committed to your best interest at all times. It seems sort of obvious to me that a professional would work in this way, but it’s not automatic.
A fiduciary, fee-only, CFP® professional can help you make great retirement income choices and develop a comprehensive financial plan that is driven by your goals and priorities and addresses all aspects of your financial life. With a big-picture approach, you will be better prepared to understand your options at every step along the way.
Yes, I am a CFP® professional. I’m always a fiduciary and I only work on a fee basis. And yes, I’m still taking on a few great families to be part of my financial planning practice.
If this article has you thinking about your own circumstances, contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always happy to meet with people who are working on their retirement plans. Dunncreek Advisors does not provide legal or tax advice, nor is this article intended to do so.