Q. I don’t have a large income or a lot of investments. How can a financial planner help me?
You don’t have to be wealthy to make a financial plan. A financial planner can help you in the following ways:
1. Clarify your current situation
A planner will provide you with a personal and financial data-gathering document to fill in with information about your family, your job, spending habits, your assets and liabilities, and your goals and objectives.
They’ll also look at your investment statements, loan statements, your pay stub, income tax returns and assessments, employee benefits statements, insurance policies and perhaps your will.
If you decide to see a fee-for-service planner who charges by the hour, it’s best to be as organized as possible with your paperwork, or it could get expensive.
2. Identify your financial and personal goals and objectives
The planner will review your stated goals and objectives and can help you establish time horizons and estimated costs for each one.
Personal financial values and attitudes should also be discussed so the planner has a clear understanding of what is important to you and your family so any recommendations won’t make you uncomfortable.
3. Identify potential problems
The financial planner can identify certain precarious situations such as too much credit card debt, income tax inefficiency and too much risk exposure that could make you vulnerable if a crisis occurs, and provide you with sound advice.
4. Provide written recommendations
Once the planner has reviewed your situation, clarified your goals and identified barriers to those goals, he or she can prepare a plan providing specific recommendations that should move you toward your goals.
Related: Why Your Financial Plan Sucks
He or she should also provide you with various alternate solutions for you to consider so you can choose what feels most comfortable.
Your plan will only work if you implement it, and you should be free to use any financial services adviser to do so. However, your planner has a responsibility to see that the plan is put into motion, and may help you co-ordinate with other knowledgeable professionals.
6. Periodic review and revision
A financial plan must evolve as your life circumstances change over time. The planner should review your plan with you periodically – typically once a year – to account for changes in your lifestyle, economic conditions and tax legislation.
If you implement a debt reduction or savings/investment program, the planner should monitor your progress to ensure you are on track.
The above is the six-step financial planning process that is standard for members of the Canadian Association of Financial Planners.
You can certainly do them yourself if you are motivated, knowledgeable and have the time to do research. Many people enjoy the process.
Some people, however, need a plan – a map if you will – to get them started on their financial journey. There are many excellent personal finance and investment books available, but sometimes it can be difficult to translate the concepts to your own personal situation.
Related: Why I Became A DIY Investor
Often an objective observer can be very helpful in figuring out a direction or setting goals and mapping a plan to achieve them. An outsider can make you more accountable in implementing the plan and avoiding procrastination.
Developing a plan will give you an opportunity to realize your financial goals and develop your wealth as time goes by. Whatever your age or circumstances, it’s never too late to begin.
There are many people who enjoy spending a lot of time reading financial literature, researching investments, and building and monitoring their own portfolios.
Some people need a bit of help to get them started and, once the plan is in place, they can continue to manage it on their own.
Others are willing to have a trusted advisor implement their plan and make investment purchases, with only periodic reviews for review and monitoring purposes.
Then there are those who have no specific financial plan, who go half-cocked in many different directions solely dependent on the latest news item or hot investment tip and wonder why they are not making any progress.
Which one are you?