Estate Planning

Financial Planning: Helping You See The Big Picture

As a financial planner, it always shocks me to hear some of the reasons people have for not having a financial plan in place.

“I don’t have enough money yet”

“I’m too young”

“It’s too expensive”

The question I usually respond with is: “Do you picture yourself owning a new home, launching a business, starting a family or retiring comfortably?”  These are just a few of the financial goals that may be important to you, and each comes with a price tag.

This is where financial planning comes in. Financial planning helps you target your goals by evaluating your whole financial picture and outlining strategies that are tailored to your individual needs and available resources.

Why is financial planning important?

A financial plan serves as a framework for organizing all of the pieces of your financial life. With a financial plan in place, you'll be able to focus on your goals and understand what it will take to reach them.

One of the main benefits of having a financial plan is that it can help you balance competing financial priorities. A financial plan will clearly show you how your financial goals are related--for example, how saving for your children's college education might impact your ability to save for retirement. Then you can use that information to decide how to prioritize your goals, implement specific strategies, and choose suitable products or services. Best of all, you'll know that your financial life is headed in the right direction.

The financial planning process

Creating and implementing a comprehensive financial plan generally involves working with financial professionals to:

 
  • Develop a clear picture of your current financial situation by reviewing your income, assets, and liabilities, and evaluating your insurance coverage, your investment portfolio, your tax exposure, and your estate plan

  • Establish and prioritize financial goals and time frames for achieving these goals

  • Implement strategies that address your current financial weaknesses and build on your financial strengths

  • Choose specific products and services that are tailored to help meet your financial objectives

  • Monitor your plan, making adjustments as your goals, time frames, or circumstances change

 

Why can't I do it myself?

If you have enough time and knowledge - you absolutely can. Keep in mind that developing a comprehensive financial plan typically require expertise in several areas. It is also difficult to give yourself objective advice. A financial professional can give you, fact-based information and help you weigh your alternatives, saving you time and ensuring that all angles of your financial picture are covered.

Staying on track

The financial planning process doesn't end once your initial plan has been created. Your plan should be reviewed at least once a year to make sure that it's up-to-date. It's also possible that you'll need to modify your plan due to changes in your personal circumstances or the economy.

Common questions about financial planning

 

What if I'm too busy?

Don't wait until you're in the midst of a financial crisis or 10 years out from retirement before beginning the planning process. The sooner you start, the more options you may have.

Is it expensive?

This a typical assumption based on some stereotypes that are quickly becoming outdated. If you envision an older man in a fancy office who profits off the financial products you buy — well, it’s probably time to take another look. We’ve redesigned the cost to be more affordable for the younger generations. 

Is the financial planning process complicated?

Each financial plan is tailored to the needs of the individual, so how complicated the process will be depends on your individual circumstances. But no matter what type of help you need, the goal is to make the process as easy as possible.

What if my spouse and I disagree?

This is more common than you would think, but I’ve been trained to listen to your concerns, identify any underlying issues, and help you find common ground.

 

Conclusion

Your financial health — just like the physical or mental kind — takes time and effort. We all have financial goals and, in many cases, there are several that require our attention at any given time. Having a well-designed financial plan in place will help you navigate those important decisions and keep you on track. By starting earlier in life, you have the advantage of time. Don’t let your “fears” stand in the way of making real progress.

As a financial planner, my goal is to make every effort to help you make smart financial decisions and hopefully avoid making crucial mistakes. I’m invested in your success. If you’re on the fence, please reach out and ask me questions.

Estate Planning Basics for Young Professionals

As a financial professional, part of my commitment to my clients is to help guide their financial affairs. One area that is particularly critical to get right, but is often overlooked is estate preparation and the protection of your loved ones from the unexpected.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Paul Yokabitus, an Estate Planning Attorney with NC Planning to get his input on some of the common estate planning questions I hear from clients.

 

Paul, let's start with something very basic. What are the key documents that everyone should have in place?

  • Will
  • Financial power of attorney
  • Healthcare power of attorney
  • Living Will

There are instances where a trust-based plan may be appropriate, but our job as the attorney is to get you to your desired solution in the easiest and most cost-effective way possible - that may or may not include a trust. If you have young children we would also be addressing guardianship designations during the planning process.

Often times the response I get when I ask young professionals if they have an estate plan in place is "No. We don't have any kids or significant assets yet, so we don't need one. Right?". What would your advice be to people that share that same belief?

 
 

What I often tell people is that estate planning isn't just about planning for when you die, it is about protecting yourself while you are alive. A lot of people don't realize that if they are seriously injured in an accident, without documents in place - it is very difficult for the people that care about them to make financial and medical decisions on their behalf.

Most people also don't realize that if they die without documents in place, the default distribution plan allocates a portion of their probated estate to their parents, even if they are married. I like to refer to estate planning as empowered planning. The idea is that you are taking initiative now to avoid the defaults from ever coming into play.

Something I've seen a lot throughout my career in financial planning is the use of online tools to take care of estate planning needs, often in an attempt to save on the cost. Is this really a good idea?

I always say that having some type of plan is better than having no plan. With that being said, these plans should only be considered when trying to cover a shorter period of time or if cost is a greater concern than the plan itself. They aren't designed to be a long term comprehensive plan. You also don't have the opportunity to establish a relationship with an attorney, which can be important when changes occur in your life or with the laws surrounding estate planning. Based on my experience most DIY estate plans fall short of what clients actually want to have happen. I've probated DIY wills and probably 9 out of 10 times there is an issue that makes the process longer or more expensive for the family.

What are some of the key things people should look for when deciding to work with an estate planning attorney?

  • There should always be a free initial consultation offered - the attorney shouldn't put a road block between you and your planning options.
  • You want to make sure there is a signed representation agreement that covers the terms and scope of the services, as well as the cost.
  • Look for a fixed fee estate planning attorney.
  • Read through their online reviews. This can be an excellent way of determining what you could expect when working with that attorney.
  • Responsiveness. You want to work with someone that is a good communicator and returns communications from you quickly.

What are some common mistakes you see people making when it comes to estate planning?

  • Not planning with alternatives. Many people only name one back up and that doesn't provide enough depth to a comprehensive estate plan. You want to have a "deep bench" if possible.
  • Not updating their plan. Estate planning has gone through many changes over time and will likely continue to change in the future. It is important to review and make changes to your plan when this happens.
  • Not coordinating your estate plan with your financial life. This means updating the titling or beneficiaries on your different assets. Working as a team with your financial planning professional can help ensure this is done properly.
  • Waiting too long to get something in place. Most people procrastinate until something happens and at that point it might be too late.
 

I want to thank Paul for providing us with great information. If you want to learn more about how he works with clients click here.

As you can see, in this month's blog, we've tackled some questions that I hope will help you think about your priorities and prompt a discussion with your loved ones. Please feel free to share this information with your friends and family; everyone deserves the benefit of professional recommendations and the confidence of knowing that their future wishes are protected.

If you would like to review your current estate provisions please call my office at 919-463-0018.