BENEFITS OF FINANCIAL PLANNING
In today’s uncertain economy, financial planning has become increasingly important. With an overwhelming number of options for saving and investing, managing your finances can be difficult. Creating a financial plan helps you see the big picture and set long and short-term life goals, a crucial step in mapping out your financial future. When you have a strategy, it’s easier to make financial decisions and stay on track to meet your goals. Working with a CFP® professional can secure your financial wellbeing and give you peace of mind.
Some people decide to do their own financial planning, but you may want to seek help from a Certified Financial Planner™ professional if you:
- Want to better manage your finances, but aren’t sure where to start
- Don’t have time to do your own financial planning
- Want a professional opinion about the plan you’ve developed
- Don’t have sufficient expertise in certain areas such as investments, insurance, taxes or retirement planning
- Have an immediate need or unexpected life event
FINANCIAL PLANNING PROCESS
To develop a solid financial plan, it’s important to cover all your bases, including examining your current situation, setting goals and deciding how to measure your progress. From start to finish, a Certified Financial Planner™ professional can take you through the financial planning process, outlined in these six steps.
Establishing and defining the client-CFP® professional relationship
Your Certified Financial Planner™ professional will explain the services he’ll provide and define each of your responsibilities. Along with compensation, you’ll discuss how long the professional relationship will last and how you and he will make decisions.
Gathering client data, including goals
You and your CFP® professional will talk about your current financial situation and gather any necessary documents. Together, you’ll define your personal and financial goals, including timeframes. You may also want to discuss your comfort level when it comes to taking financial risks.
Analyzing and evaluating your financial status
Your Certified Financial Planner™ professional will then consider all aspects of your situation to determine what you need to do to meet your goals. Depending on what services you’ve asked for, this could include analyzing your assets, liabilities and cash flow, current insurance coverage, investments or tax strategies.
Next, your CFP® professional will go over his financial recommendations, explaining the rationale so you can make informed decisions. At this stage, your planner will also listen to any concerns you may have and revise his recommendations if necessary.
You and the CFP® professional will need to agree on how the recommendations will be carried out. Your Certified Financial Planner™ professional may carry out the recommendations himself or serve as your coach, coordinating the process with you and other professionals, like attorneys or stockbrokers.
As you work towards your goals, you and your Certified Financial Planner™ professional will need to decide who will monitor your progress to make sure you’re staying on track. If the planner is in charge, he’ll check in from time to time, reviewing your situation and making any necessary adjustments to his recommendations.
TYPES OF FINANCIAL PLANNERS
Financial planners who hold CFP® certification have met education, examination, experience and ethics requirements. Only those who have fulfilled the certification and renewal requirements of CFP Board can display the CFP® certification marks, which represent a high level of competency, ethics and professionalism.
Listed below are some different types of financial advisers. These advisers should refer you to a planner if they cannot meet your financial planning needs.
Accountants provide you with advice on tax matters and help you prepare and submit your tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). All accountants who practice as Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) must be licensed by the state(s) in which they practice.
A relatively small percentage of attorneys provide financial planning services, usually specializing in estate and tax planning. A financial planner may ask an attorney to provide specific legal advice for a client, particularly in the areas of taxation or estate planning. An attorney may also be called upon to prepare the legal documents necessary to implement recommendations in areas such as wills, trust documents or business ownership planning.
Estate planners provide you with advice on estate taxes or other estate planning issues and put together a strategy to manage your assets at the time of your death. While attorneys, accountants, financial planners, insurance agents or trust bankers may all provide estate planning services, you should seek an attorney to prepare legal documents such as wills, trusts and powers of attorney.
Insurance agents are individuals licensed by a state or states to sell life and health and/or property and casualty insurance products. Many financial planners are licensed to sell or give advice on insurance products. Other financial planners might identify insurance needs for a client, but turn to a licensed insurance agent for recommendations about which existing insurance products best meet your needs. Independent insurance agents sell products for two or more insurance companies, while exclusive insurance agents represent only one.
Investment advisers are individuals or firms that provide securities advice for compensation as part of a regular business. They must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or appropriate state securities agencies, unless specifically exempted. Because financial planners often advise people on securities-based investments, many are registered as investment advisers. Investment advisers cannot sell securities products without a securities license. For that, you must use a licensed securities representative, such as a stockbroker.
Also called registered representatives, stockbrokers are licensed by the state(s) in which they practice to buy and sell securities products such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds. They generally earn commissions on all of their transactions. Stockbrokers must be registered with a company that is a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and pass FINRA-administered securities exams.