Successful Financial Planning is More than a Document
by Steven Zeller
A successful financial plan or a plan to address accumulated wealth requires much more than an assembled report or analysis with recommendations. Many times a person that is nearing retirement or has accumulated wealth has a written plan created and then shortly thereafter, finds it to be stored on a shelf or in a drawer and is never really looked at again.
As a great contributor to the financial profession, Dave Ramsey, once stated, that financial planning is 20% planning and 80% behavior. There is a lot of truth in this statement as planning not only involves the behavior of the individuals or family doing the planning, but also the advisor who may be engaging them in putting together a financial plan.
Financial planning is very much a process and not an event. Planning includes specific goal identification, exploration of individual and family values and purpose, the establishment of a team of trusted advisors, careful construction of a strategy, tactics and selection of tools, implementation, and careful monitoring. Each of these areas requires careful consideration and understanding.
Establishing goals and what is Important to you – It can't be stressed enough how important it is to spend plenty of time in this very first step in the financial planning process. Although this step is standard within the financial planning process, it often requires more emphasis than actually occurs. Ample time needs to be taken in planning to correctly identify goals that are the most important, and assure that accumulated wealth is being aligned with purpose and values in a way that creates fulfillment in the future.
Careful selection of your team of advisors – Selecting advisors is like assembling an award winning sports team or business team. Not only should you select advisors of the highest competence, objectivity, and reputation, but also a team of advisors that are willing to communicate with each other and work together. One of the challenges that an individual has in forming a team of advisors, is the disconnect that commonly exists between the financial advisor, CPA, estate planning attorney, business attorney, etc. It is important for success that a team of advisors are willing to communicate with each other and work together on your behalf.
Developing the Financial Plan – This step involves construction of a written plan that is coordinated with your team of advisors and involves careful consideration of planning strategies, development of the tactics and careful selection of the tools for each area of your plan. Whether a financial plan involves the design of investment portfolios, a plan to successfully exit a business, an estate plan, legacy plan, or all of these areas in one comprehensive plan, a plan needs to be designed in a way that connects your wealth with your purpose, values and stated goals.
Implementation of a financial plan – This step requires teamwork and communication. A detailed action plan needs to be published and followed by you and your family as well as the advisors that are involved. It is recommended that a system is in place that enables you to follow through with the required action steps. The action steps need to be specific and have precise dates for accomplishing them with communication for tracking the status.
Monitoring your results – This step often causes a plan to fall apart. Regular monitoring is required, frequent communication is important, but most of all commitment from you and your advisors to follow through and work towards achieving your goals. It's like running a business, in that having the proper systems in place, discipline and focus becomes vitally important to successful results.
This is a short description of a successful financial plan. Although, there are many details that need to be considered, it is important to realize the various steps and how to follow through with these steps to help assure your success.
Steven Zeller, Advisory Services offered by Zeller Kern Wealth Advisors, one of the leading Sacramento Wealth Management firms and a Registered Investment Adviser.