“Am I really ready for a comprehensive financial plan?” “Do I really need a financial planner?”
Boy howdy is that a good question–and it’s one I get all the time from my friends and prospective clients.
For some of those folks, the answer is “no.” Those are the people who are swimming in debt or have a super tight budget as it is. For them, my advice is simple: let’s talk budgeting. Let’s figure out a way to get you out of debt, THEN really start planning for the future.
However, there’s a fairly sizeable group that *is* ready for a financial plan and just didn’t realize it yet.
To understand why, it helps to understand what “comprehensive financial plan” actually means. A comprehensive financial plan is a detailed roadmap for all aspects of your financial situation. The plan:
- Lays out your needs for retirement and other financial goals
- Helps you see the big picture of where all your money is located
- Organizes your debt information in one place
- Determines whether you have enough life insurance coverage for your situation
- Gives you guidelines of action steps to take and where to route your extra money in order to support your goals
I’ve come to love the planning process because it brings my clients so much clarity and peace of mind, but there are certain types of clients who benefit from it more than others. In order to help you figure out whether a comprehensive financial plan is right from you, I’ve compiled seven situations that I see among my Millennial clients in particular.
#1: You’re ready to move beyond just tackling student debt.
When you first graduated, chances are you were focused on paying your bills on time and not defaulting on your student loans. As you progress in your career, however, you’ll reach a stage where you realize you have extra money to save. At that point, it becomes tempting to simply throw all your extra money towards your student debt–but in my experience, this is rarely an optimal approach.
On the contrary, a far more sound approach is to make sure you understand all your various financial goals and then route the money strategically so that you maximize your chances of reaching those goals. A comprehensive financial plan dramatically facilitates this decision making process.
#2: You’re merging finances with a loved one.
If you’re getting married or looking to further integrate your lives within a long-term partnership, you’ve hopefully started to talk about money. This goes far beyond the basic “who picks up the tab at restaurants?” type discussion.
As your financial lives begin to merge, you need to discuss who pays which bills. Do you need a joint bank account to cover those expenses? Are you planning to be in retirement together one day and therefore need to coordinate strategy? If you’re getting married, the stakes can be even higher, as joint accounts and mutual beneficiaries become much more common.
As you’re going through these discussions, it can be massively helpful to have a professional guide you through the considerations of how to set mutual financial goals and team up to plan for them.
#3: You’re not sure how to properly save for retirement.
Whether you’re self-employed and don’t have access to traditional retirement savings options, or you’re simply feeling “behind” on the retirement savings process, a comprehensive financial plan can help you plan for retirement in a smart way.
People often contribute to a retirement fund without really knowing what they need, but a financial plan will help you to estimate your future living expenses. Embedded in the planning process is a discussion of what your ideal retirement will look like–both from a lifestyle standpoint, as well as from a financial standpoint. How much money will you need to live? What will health care expenses look like decades from now? What about all the other expenses such as travel that help you thrive during retirement, rather than simply surviving?
Not only will the comprehensive financial plan help you estimate your retirement needs, it will give you a plan to maximize your chances of success. From increasing your 401(k) allocations, to opening up a Traditional or Roth IRA, or supplementing your savings in an individual brokerage account, making an action plan early may help you avoid a retirement crisis down the line.
#4: You feel lost or stressed about money.
If you’re stressed about your finances, sometimes that’s reason enough to see a financial professional. Sure, the internet is rife with information on how to improve your financial situation, but the task of looking things up, sorting through sources, and integrating that information into your own life can sometimes only add stress to the process.
I meet with a lot of clients who let overwhelm get in the way of their financial success, and they appreciate the fact that I can guide them through the process instead of them figuring it out on their own.
#5: You have children or are planning to have children.
Children bring a lot of joy–but they also bring a lot of financial complexity. From saving for medical expenses, to navigating the first few months of the child’s life, to saving for college, there are a lot of financial factors involved in the decision to have kids.
In addition, the financial planning stakes get higher when there are children in the picture. Parents are tempted to sacrifice long-term goals such as retirement when immediate expenses increase, there are new estate planning considerations, and life insurance becomes more of a must-have.
Whether you’ve already got children or are planning that big life step down the road, a comprehensive financial plan can help you weigh and plan for these various factors.
#6: You need some accountability.
I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time staying motivated in the face of ambiguity. Much in the same way that I have trouble working out without some sort of exercise plan, many folks have trouble saving for the future without clear guidelines for where the money should go. The action plan component of the comprehensive financial plan can give you the clarity you need to move forward.
Likewise, if you know you need to take the time to get your financial house in order, the financial planning process will give you accountability along the way. The process forces you to address your current financial situation, brainstorm your goals, and possibly even have some difficult discussions that you may have been avoiding.
In short: you could always go it alone, but if you’ve been actively avoiding your finances, it might be time to bring in a professional.
#7: Making the wrong move is more expensive than hiring a financial planner.
The biggest pushback I get from people who aren’t familiar with the financial planning profession is that it’s only for “rich people.” But in my experience, that’s simply not the case.
Not only is a comprehensive financial plan more affordable than you think (check our Service page for evidence of this 😉), there are some situations in which there’s a high cost for *not* working with a financial planner. Let me give you a couple examples:
- You’d be surprised at how many people are incorrectly invested in 401(k) plans and IRA rollovers because of the default options. If your 401(k) default is highly conservative, switching to something more appropriate for your financial situation could result in thousands of extra dollars of retirement income. Likewise, many IRA rollovers start with a cash balance. If you never go in and select securities, your “investment” account is no better than a savings account.
- Sub-optimal paydown of debt is expensive. If you’re not routing your extra money strategically, you could be paying hundreds of extra dollars in interest over the life of the loans.
- Picture a couple with young children who don’t yet have life insurance. If something were to happen to one of them, can you imagine the catastrophic financial burden that would ensue?
These are just a few basic examples of how the initial investment in a financial plan can more than pay for itself over time.
If you’ve read this article and think it might be time for you to start the comprehensive financial planning process, I’d love to chat with you about your situation. I would be glad to give you an honest assessment of whether I believe planning is right for you–and if not, how you can improve your financial situation until you’re ready.
Simply book your free 15-minute call below to get started.