A Success Driven Financial Planning Process
Achieving financial success can come from many different tactics. Common belief is to invest a portion of your earnings for years in the stock market with hopes to maintain your lifestyle in retirement. Business owners may build a company that generates enough cash flow to sustain their lifestyle or eventually sell. Others have created income streams from a windfall or reducing their expenses to live off of what they’ve saved.
Each journey will undoubtedly experience trials and setbacks. These setbacks could be a market downturn for the investor, changes to the economy for the business owner or a new tax law that legislates away the appeal of an income stream or ability to reduce expenses.
The value of your financial plan is to help you withstand your negativity during turbulent times. It’s easy to sell your investments for whatever you can get when the market is down and you’d prefer to just take whatever cash the market offers. It’s tough to withstand years of an underperforming asset, particularly when you see alternatives performing better. Your beliefs can be questioned and even appear wrong when this goes on for too long.
Challenging times shape our human bias. Our bad experience in oil from November 2014 may have prevented us from getting back in ever again. How many people went to cash after Trump was elected because they thought the US was finished? How many advisors have lost clients for sticking with a value portfolio while momentum stocks have dominated?
Sure, our timing and external forces play a major role in the outcome, but it’s easy to throw in the towel and blame the results on someone or something else. Our nature is to seek confirmation to validate our bias, regardless of where it comes from. The advisor didn’t move fast enough, we never should have bought that position, I told you I didn’t trust their advice.
These experiences can shape our belief in money, markets and professional help. They also can blind us from participating in future opportunities for fear of the same results. Often, our experiences limit the ability to take action for fear of making a mistake.
Trust the Process
A financial plan can help to surface and validate those beliefs. By focusing on a future outcome, you can backtrack your steps to get there.
However, most financial plans only function to provide a best case scenario. Some common shortfalls of financial plans include:
- Assuming consistent investment returns year after year
- Not using actual expenses to build financial plans
- Only sharing the plan with one specialist (ie: advisor, but not accountant or attorney)
- Not updating the plan on a recurring basis
The following is a framework to help you build a dynamic financial planning process. This process is not unique to financial planning, but is in fact used by many top performing athletes and teams across different industries. This process should help you develop and maintain a financial plan or hire someone to do it for you.
Your financial plan should have short, near and long term goals. In retirement planning this may look like:
Short – Maxing your 401(k) contributions
Near – Contributing to a Roth IRA before filing 2021 taxes
Long – Having a 80/20 split of taxable/tax free income in Retirement
Defining your goals using the S.M.A.R.T process can outline the actions that you and your advisor should take. Your goals should be:
By starting with the end in mind you create agreement on the desired outcome. Using SMART goals defines roles and responsibilities for helping to achieve those outcomes.
You can create a first draft financial plan with Pocket Plan to get started on achieving your goals today.
A financial plan is only as good as it’s execution. There’s nothing more frustrating for an advisor than seeing a plan that took 20 – 30 hours of time to create go unused. However, it’s easy for the client to feel overwhelmed by action items that cover so many areas of their lives.
Consider what’s actually involved for Financial Planning Recommendations like these:
- Consolidate your assets
- Rebalance your portfolio
- Adjust your IRA beneficiary
- Purchase Life Insurance
- Purchase Auto Liability Insurance
- Get LifeLock Identity protection
- Update your Estate Plan
- Find a CPA to do your tax filing
Clients hire advisors for solutions. Most don’t want a coach or a list of activities to do in their already busy lives.
Pocket Plan helps clients and advisors stay on track. Having access to a shared plan allows them to hold each other accountable for the outcome. The Retirement Score keeps the shared goal the same so the advisor and client can share success.
Life never moves in a straight line. Unexpected events create a good time to review your financial plan. When you’re in times of uncertainty knowing that you have a plan can help you make rational decisions and not act emotionally.
Analyzing your financial plan should consist of reviewing:
Using the simple metric of your Retirement Score allows you to know how likely you are to achieve your long term goals. Your Retirement Score gives you a single measure to determine your odds of success.
A clear benchmark of your financial standing should take place on a quarterly and annual basis. Your Net Worth is the biggest factor to improve your Retirement Score.
In addition to documenting your Net Worth, you should document any mistakes or poignant topics that should be revisited. For many advisors, these come from their client notes. These notes offer a high level summary of their discussion with clients and areas that need to be revisited.
Pocket Plan helps you to quickly document your Net Worth with financial reports. The Net Worth is made of actual financial account data and can be exported to PDF or printed.
Keeping a strong financial planning process will help you achieve your results faster. While it’s not always comfortable to stay consistent with your process, it is helpful during times of stress.