We provide comprehensive financial planning services focused on the client’s needs and wishes. While we follow a process, the actual client engagement we apply is unique to each individual case. With that being said, the following steps and outcomes apply to most everyone.
Organization & Aggregation
While it sounds like common sense, getting our clients financial lives organized so we both can evaluate a clear starting point and growth into the future is always the first step. Most clients come to us not knowing basic metrics about their finances, such as their net worth, total financial assets, life insurance death benefits, if they are covered by disability insurance, the ratio of qualified investment assets to non-qualified, and so on. Laying out the current financial situation is priority one.
Most financial institutions today offer web access. While that is certainly helpful, accessing many individual web sites can be time consuming and often frustrating. We use planning software that has the ability to aggregate bank accounts, brokerage accounts, 401(k) plans, insurance cash values, mortgage balances, and credit card accounts all to a single, personal web site that is updated every day. This site becomes a single access point to your financial life. In addition, the site offers a “client vault” to store copies of personal documents such as tax returns, wills and trusts, deeds to properties, copies of passports, and whatever else would be helpful to the client.
Forecasting & Scenarios
Planning for financial independence is different today. Retirement is now defined not by reaching a certain age, but by personal choice and circumstance. To be able to properly plan and communicate, we use a software system where the output is easy to understand. No one knows the future, so we focus on running a set of scenarios that provide a range of outcomes. From these various outcomes we can measure the probability of any target plans success. These initial scenarios become the building blocks of the financial plan. As circumstances change in the future, the scenarios need to be updated to again forecast future expected cash flows. A good financial plan is not something you have completed, but is a set of goals, assumptions, values, and risks that need to be continuously measured over time. You only get to retire once – if you do it right.
Budgeting & Tracking Expenditures
One of the key assumptions to planning for financial independence is the amount of annual spending. While there are all kinds of assumptions and formulas used in the profession, the only ones that truly matter are the spending assumptions used in your target plan. One of the most critical elements in planning is keeping track of the annual spending versus the target assumption used. Our system has a tracking system built in so you’ll know what you have spent over various periods of time. This is a critical part of managing your plan each year and its long term success.