“I’m way too busy.” “I’ll take care of that next month.” Whether it’s a work commitment or a family obligation, there’s a good chance these words have crossed your mind when confronted with difficult or time-consuming tasks. When your plate is already full, it is tempting to procrastinate or delay decisions that don’t require immediate attention — and that includes financial decisions.
Balance is important in all aspects of your life, and your personal finances are no different. All too often, it can be easy to procrastinate long-term financial planning, because we don’t see the results or impact of those choices until further down the road. You may choose to avoid the topic entirely, as it requires you to confront situations that are complex, deeply private and emotional in nature.
Still, the cost of procrastinating and waiting to get your financial house in order can have a severe impact on the well-being of you and your family — for better or worse.
If you have yet to address your long-term financial health, there is still hope! The first step is to enlist the help of an experienced financial advisor, who can can help you gain better control of your finances and lay the groundwork for achieving your goals.
Here are some basic tips to help you prepare for a productive discussion with an advisor and cross those tasks off of your financial to-do list for good.
1. Develop Your Goals
It is extremely important for your advisor to understand your short and long-term goals, as well as which goals are the most important to you. Take time to regroup and get a complete understanding of your current financial picture. Where are you today? What goals or milestones do you hope to accomplish over the next few years?
Where do you hope to be in five, ten or 20 years?
Make sure that your spouse and other members of your family are included in the process, since they will likely play a large role in determining how your goals are categorized. Maybe you’re aiming to pay down all of your credit card debt by the end of next year. Perhaps you’re interested in starting a college education fund for your child, or setting aside funds to support and provide care to elderly parents. Getting a clear sense of where you stand and what you would like to achieve are quintessential to helping your advisor initiate the planning process. Then, he or she can help you assess the attainability of your goals, develop appropriate timelines and strategize where to allocate your finances so you can start moving forward.
2. Identify Strengths and Challenges
Before you sit down with your advisor, take some time to review some of the experiences that you have had regarding money and your personal finances.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced? What strides have you already made in progressing toward your goals? It may be helpful to review your budget, past statements or account information to pinpoint any trends, gaps or weak spots.
If possible, identify any roadblocks that are preventing you from moving forward.
For instance, you may be doing an excellent job depositing money into your savings each week, but you may lack an appropriate investment strategy that can help you build and sustain that growth. By making headway and evaluating these challenges at the outset, your advisor will be able to identify what is working for you and fill in any gaps as needed.
Additionally, share any knowledge or helpful information you have built up over the years. For instance, have you learned of any potential health issues (for instance, a hereditary illness) that could potentially impact your finances or your ability to achieve your goals in the long term? By relaying this information and preparing in advance, you can focus more of your time on finding solutions to address problem areas and plan for the unexpected.
3. Prioritize and Take Action
Once your advisor has reviewed your needs, priorities and goals, the next step is to concentrate on areas that are of highest impact and importance. Ask your advisor to present their recommendations to you in order of urgency. These recommendations will help you understand which factors and decisions will have the greatest effect — positive or negative — on your financial situation going forward.
Also, evaluate the consequences of situations or events that fall outside of your defined plan or the list of goals you’ve developed. For instance, you may have opted against developing an estate plan or purchasing life insurance coverage.
However, improper planning — or worse, not planning at all — in these areas can cause the most damage in the shortest amount of time, should you pass away unexpectedly or become incapacitated. As your advisor develops an implementation strategy for these recommendations, he or she may coordinate with other professionals, including your attorney, insurance representative or tax advisor, to ensure the plan you’ve developed reflects all facets of your life.
4. Focus on the Long Term — and Mean It
Being steadfast in periodically reviewing and tracking your progress is essential to achieving your long-term financial goals. Whether it’s on a monthly, biannual or annual basis, use regular meetings with your advisor to track checkpoints and share information that may affect your plan. If you develop a new goal or experience other life changes, such as marriage, a job change or a new baby, work with your advisor to make any adjustments to your plan or investments as necessary.
During these reviews, you will also want to tackle any upkeep on the current strategies you have in place. This includes reviewing the beneficiaries on your accounts or implementing tax strategies to accommodate changes in the law. It is one thing to talk about wanting long-term financial success, but it is another to put those ‘wants’ into practice. Remember that financial planning is an ongoing process, one that evolves as your life changes. Staying focused and diligent will help ensure your plan reflects what is most important to you.
Don’t leave your financial goals to chance. Working with an advisor to develop a roadmap that helps you adapt to the risks you face and accounts for your goals will bring you one step closer to total financial fitness.
To discuss your financial plan or speak with our financial advisors, please call 888-520-3040 or search for an advisor at an office near you.