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A Client’s View of the Financial Planning Process

Any one of our advisors could walk you through the steps involved in developing, implementing, monitoring and adjusting a financial plan. What I would like to do is share with you the financial planning process through the eyes of the client – me.

 

Why a Financial Plan was important to me:

In my early thirties I was the primary caregiver for my grandparents, both in their eighties.  I was their healthcare and living power of attorney, and social security guardian. This role came late in their life and I didn’t have much time to get their affairs in order.  (Please see Transferring Wealth Through Generations – Greenwood Capital Associates, LLC as to why this is so important.) I was scrambling to pay for nursing and assisted living care in their current financial state.  I had to sell their home of 46 years in a bit of a rush to get the cash proceeds to pay for their care.  All these decisions could have been planned for well in advance with time and a trusted advisor.

 

When they passed, not only was I tremendously sad and emotional, I had quite a financial mess on my hands.  I didn’t know where all their bank accounts or safe deposit boxes were; I learned they had outstanding loans; they had life insurance I knew nothing about; there were individual stock certificates; and I learned my grandfather was even the victim of a $25,000 scam.  Luckily, I work in a financial services company and received help from all over the www.ecountybank.com family.  After getting through probate, I vowed to make my parents get their affairs in order, as well as we would establish a plan for us.

 

Why I procrastinated:

Well, now we are in our 50s and we just got our plan done last year. Why, you might ask?

Two reasons:

  • The document gathering phase seemed overwhelming to me. Pulling together bank, investment, retirement, insurance, tax and legal information. I didn’t have it in one place and procrastinated. What I found was it only took about two hours once I put my mind to it, and most of that was resetting passwords to retrieve information.  A great tool to help you with this can be found at https://greenwoodcapital.com/wealth-transfer-checklist/
  • When asked what our goals were they just didn’t seem important enough to necessitate a written plan. I don’t know about you, but when I think of financial plans, I think of leaving a legacy endowment, or buying a second home, or creating a trust for the next generation.  I was fairly certain none of that would be in the cards for us. Afterall, our family is fairly typical: two income household, two children, two cars and a dog. After meeting with our advisors, who happen to be Brian Disher and Quintin Pile (CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERSTM), we realized a plan was not just for dying (estate planning like I needed for my grandparents); more importantly it is for living!

 

The process was simple:

Started with a Conversation. We shared with Brian and Quintin that we just want to be comfortable in retirement, be able to travel, ensure our kids could go to college if they so choose (without student loans if possible), and, well not have to worry about the basics (daily living expenses, medical expenses, insurance, etc.). We also provided basic information, such as our birth dates, the kids’ ages and educational aspirations, an overview of our assets (home, bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts), and our liabilities (mortgage, automobile loans).

 

Advisors do the heavy lifting. Our Advisors took all our gathered information and entered our data into a financial planning application. As they were doing their preliminary analysis, they followed up with some additional questions, such as:

  • How much longer did we anticipate working?
  • Did we have any short-term goals, such as buying a car, paying off our home, etc. that should be considered?

They then ran various market scenarios (up market, down market, volatile market, etc.), as well as considered various inflation, compensation, and social security assumptions. They looked at the strengths in our current situation (for us, little debt), and weaknesses (for us, not enough life insurance) and considered how our plan would adjust if we implemented various scenarios (i.e. bought land).  Mind you, all this was done behind the scenes.

 

Advisors make a presentation. We then met with Brian and Quintin to review their short-term and long-term recommendations.  Short-term recommendations included increasing life insurance in case one of us passed during our employment years and increasing retirement savings to reduce taxes. Longer-term strategies included investment asset allocation adjustments over our time horizon as we approached retirement.  Using something called a Monte Carlo simulation (which runs all the various scenarios mentioned in the analysis section), they were able to show us the likelihood of achieving our goals in different investment markets. We reviewed all the material and received a nice presentation summary. We also agreed on what actions we would take, which we were under no obligation to do.

 

We monitor & adjust. We are a year into our plan and Brian and Quintin are monitoring our actual performance to our goals. For us it is too early to make any adjustments, however, I know this is a critical step in the process.  Since they do have our plan, even with the volatility in the market, we are easily able to see if we are on track for our goals (and we are!). As our situation evolves – say we pay off our house, or one of our kids chooses an Ivy League school, or we win the lottery(!) – we will further adjust our plan as needed.

 

I regret I procrastinated so long as having this plan has provided us a great deal of comfort – to the point that we both even have a target retirement date! It has enabled us to know easily what gaps to address, removed my worries, and let us focus on living.

Want to know more about getting started:

 

Denise H. Lollis is the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Compliance Officer. As she likes to say, she neither manages money nor works with clients directly, instead, her role is to work with the team to ensure they have all the tools and resources to do so.

The information contained within has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed for accuracy. The opinions expressed are subject to change from time to time and do not constitute a recommendation to purchase or sell any security nor to engage in any particular investment strategy. Investment Advisory Services are offered through Greenwood Capital Associates, LLC, an SEC-registered investment advisor.