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Helping You See The Big Picture

Financial Planning: Helping You See the Big Picture

Do you picture yourself purchasing a new home, starting a business, or retiring comfortably? These are a few of the financial goals that may be important to you, and each comes with a sizable price tag.

That's where financial planning comes in. Financial planning is a process that can help you set and understand your goals by evaluating your whole financial picture, then outlining strategies that are tailored to your individual needs and available resources.

Common financial goals

  • Saving and investing for retirement
  • Saving and investing for college
  • Establishing an emergency fund
  • Providing for your family in the event of your death or disability
  • Minimizing income or estate taxes

Why is financial planning important?

A comprehensive financial plan serves as the framework for organizing the pieces of your financial life. With a financial plan in place, you'll be better able to focus on your goals while understanding 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 clearly illustrates how your financial goals are related--for example, how saving for your children's college education might impact your ability to save for retirement or retirement date perhaps. With this information you can more accurately determine 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 direction YOU choose.

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 coverages, 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 meet your financial objectives
  • Monitor your plan, making adjustments as your goals, time frames, or circumstances change

Why can't I do it myself?

You can, if you have enough time and knowledge, but developing a comprehensive financial plan may require expertise in several areas. A financial professional can give you objective 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 generally 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. Here are some of the events that might trigger a review of your financial plan:

  • Your goals or time horizons change
  • You experience a life-changing event such as marriage, the birth of a child, health problems, or a job loss
  • You have a specific or immediate financial planning need (e.g., drafting a will, managing a distribution from a retirement account, paying long-term care expenses)
  • Your income or expenses substantially increase or decrease
  • Your portfolio hasn't performed as expected
  • You're affected by changes to the economy or tax laws

Common questions about financial planning

What if I'm too busy?
Don't wait until you're in the midst of a financial crisis before beginning the planning process. The sooner you start, the more options you may have.

Is the financial planning process complicated?
Each financial plan is tailored to the needs of the individual, so how complicated the process depends on your individual circumstances. No matter what type of help you need, a financial professional will work hard to make the process as easy as possible and will gladly answer all your questions.

What if my spouse and I disagree?
A financial professional is trained to listen to your concerns, identify any underlying issues, and help you find common ground.

Can I still control my own finances?
Financial planning professionals make recommendations, not decisions. You retain control over your finances. Recommendations will be based on your needs, values, goals, and time frames. You decide which recommendations to follow, then work with a financial professional to implement them.