What should be the focus in discussions with a financial advisor?
Financial or wealth planning has a broad range of topics. As CFP® Financial Planners, our focus is on individuals and families achieving their wealth goals and financial security. Often, we meet individuals who are simply overwhelmed. They ask, “Where do we even start?” or “What will we talk about?”
Here are six planning areas which should be the initial focus. When these basics are in place, more advanced planning will follow.
- Investment Portfolio Review
- Retirement Contributions
- Goal Setting
- Emergency Fund Creation
- Estate Plans
Investment Portfolio Review
Maintaining a disciplined investment approach through market volatility and taking advantage of economic cycles is necessary for long-term investment success. Making sure your investments are aligned with your risk tolerance, time horizon and goals is critical to everything. Is Your Investment Portfolio Meeting Your Needs?
Dollar-cost averaging, monitoring, and rebalancing your accounts are an integral part of wealth planning. Your investments will need to perform differently throughout your financial timeline. Which requires asset allocation review. Objective advice on how to be invested at each stage is a key part of planning.
Knowing and understanding how much money needs to be set aside or “saved for retirement” throughout the working years is another major planning topic. Starting early and having the power of compounding interest on your side is invaluable. Knowing this and executing it will help you to achieve retirement savings in both an employer-sponsored plan and a Roth IRA.
Striving to save between 10 to 20% of your gross pay in different types of investment accounts will set you up for a retirement lifestyle like your current lifestyle. Be sure to defer enough to your employer-sponsored plans to receive any matching contributions. Depending on your tax situation, when to maximize tax deferrals or when to use after-tax contributions should be considered. Automating your savings will keep you on pace. Understanding and optimizing your tax brackets through the years can increase your overall investment portfolio value.
Defining your goals and concerns to build you a step-by-step guide to follow through all the stages of your financial life is the focus of many planning conversations. Everyone will be different and timelines vary. Setting parameters, quantifying results and marking progress to outcomes is necessary. Determining and ranking your goals into needs, wants, and wishes brings confidence to your total financial plan. Goals-based planning keeps everyone accountable and engaged in the wealth management process of saving and investing.
Emergency Fund Creation
Everyone needs to have a pool of money set aside for the unexpected. Being prepared and having funds for car repairs, dental bills or if suddenly unemployed, brings not only comfort but will save you money. Dipping into your online savings account for the unexpected root canal bill allows you to pay it in full and be done. If you put it on a credit card, planning to pay it off over the next couple of months, you will be hit with interest charges.
At a minimum, everyone should have $1,000 set aside, consider it a starting amount. Then begin building your emergency fund until it is fully funded. Each person’s fund will be a different number but save up 3 to 6 months of expenses. These funds should be held outside of your checking account in a simple savings account or online money market fund earning some interest. If used for an emergency, rebuild. If necessary, find a second job or cut expenses from the budget to build up the rainy-day fund.
Planning for life’s unexpected occurrences is not an easy discussion; but financially it needs to be one of the focus areas. Basic legal documents need to be in order so financial hardships or probate nightmares can be avoided. Most often, it involves wills, living wills, power of attorney’s, guardianship appointments and life insurance. Having your legal documents and beneficiary designations up to date will ensure that your financial assets transfer smoothly to whom you wish.
Keep your legal papers and an inventory of your financial assets in a safe known location for your heirs. Final Wishes Preparation Checklist will help you get organized.
Tax planning is a focal point in financial planning. Reviewing and understanding the consequences of deferring or accelerating taxable income is a must. These decisions can have a significant impact on your income tax rate, long-term capital gains rates, Medicare premiums and Part D surcharges. We like to say, “it’s not what you earn, but what you keep.”
Understanding the difference between tax credits or deductions, itemizing versus standard deduction can make filing income tax returns easier and faster. Planning for your unique tax situation allows you to not only be prepared but ready to take advantage of tax-savings opportunities, such as Roth conversions or tax loss harvesting at year end.
Focus on these six core financial planning areas and set the foundation for longer-term success. We are here to navigate you through the core areas of financial planning and more. Contact – Wealth Planning Corporation We are committed to simplifying your complex financial situation into actionable steps.