Financial Planning

IS IT WORTHWHILE TO HAVE SOMEONE DEVELOP A COMPREHENSIVE WRITTEN FINANCIAL PLAN FOR YOU?

Ray Levitre in his book, 20 Retirement Decisions You Need to Make Right Now says:

Want to double your money?  Would you like a $1 million retirement portfolio instead of one with $500,000?  What if I told you it’s easy?  Studies indicate that people with financial plans have twice as much money in savings and investments as those without plans…  

A plan is nothing more than a road map that guides your financial decisions, motivates you to push a little harder to achieve your goals, and acts as a yardstick to measure your progress.  Without a map, it can be very easy to start down the wrong path and never arrive at your destination…

Most people will have more success in achieving their financial goals by hiring a financial planner to help them than by going it alone.  As you’ll find out setting your financial goals and developing a written plan for accomplishing them is the easy part.  The hard part is having the discipline to stick to the plan, and this is where a good advisor will be a tremendous help.

I want to provide you with an analogy.  A year ago I wanted to lose weight.  I had quite simply become fat and felt uncomfortable and knew I was unhealthy.  I had a couple of friends who recommended different weight loss strategies.  One was a pill you took.  Another was a calorie counting diet combined with supplements.  A third was buying food that was premade for you.  Each routine worked, I would lose ten, even twenty pounds.  But then within six months to a year I not only had gained back what I lost but I continued to gain weight.  It got to the point that every diet I tried only made me fatter.  Desperately I searched for some answer that would help me lose weight.

My thoughts turned to my financial planning clients, as I am a Certified Financial Planner.  I knew that clients that did what I and my staff told them to do had all successfully retired and never run out of money in their lifetime…at least so far.  OK…we had two clients that dropped off the bandwagon as it were and took matters into their own hands, and to their dismay, I am told, both ran out of money and now live with their children or on social security.  So I understood the value of what we offered our clients.

I also realized that there were hundreds of so called financial advisors that really were salespersons masquerading as financial professionals.  I knew that hiring these types to prepare “financial plans” was a recipe for financial ruin.  The reasons are complex, but suffice it to say, they work for companies that want their employees to act in their company’s best interest not in the best interests of their clients.  I also knew it is practically impossible to tell the difference between a financial salesperson and a true professional financial advisor, unless you are in the field.

I then thought about the weight loss business.  Obviously I had been hiring businesses to help me lose weight.  The weight loss pill was a multi-level Company that made money by selling weight loss pills.  The pre-prepared food Company was run by a business that advertised on TV that if you ate their food, you would lose weight…and starve to death in the process.  The calorie counter lady seemed to have the best program, but she sold us supplements, again the way her Company made money, and tried to hold me to a diet that let me eat 1,200 calories a day.  Yes…I lost weight for a while but then gained it back with a vengeance.  So what was going on?

Surely there was someone, I reasoned, in the weight loss business, who did the equivalent of what we did in the financial services business…someone who would act in my best interests and help me lose weight.  

After an exhausting search, a CPA friend of mine simply said, “Chris you are too fat and you need to lose weight.”  I told her my dilemma and that I had repeatedly tried to lose weight using different diets that did not work.  She then referred me to a lady who she said would get the weight off and keep it off.

Today I have lost 82 pounds and am in the stabilization process.  It has taken a year.  But what did I learn?  First I learned that I had slowed my metabolism to a crawl, and that I had to kick it up a notch or two or I would never lose weight.  Then I learned how to eat…I learned what I could and could not eat to get the fat off.  Third I learned to enjoy this new diet and I continually lost a few pounds a week.  I am now in transition to keep the weight off and have successfully kept it off for three months, with no real effort. 

Shia, the woman who coached me, taught me to eat right, to track what I ate, to talk to her about what I ate and she would coerce me to stay on plan when I drifted off course.  She was my greatest cheerleader when I did good.  She was my harshest critic when I didn’t, but she managed to criticize me in a positive light.  And she bragged about me when I was done and got back to my ideal weight.  

Shia invited me to a conference where she was speaking publicly to a thousand people about weight loss, and this is what she said: “Chris has lost over 82 pounds in 9 months on the diet.  Why was he successful?  Because he was committed to losing the weight.  I can’t force a person to do what they are supposed to do, but I can give them the tools necessary to lose weight, and if they choose to do what I tell them to do they will be successful.”

So that is my story about weight loss.  But the story is so much more, because there are several important messages in this weight loss story that apply to financial planning. 

I could site study after study that shows financial planning clients retire with far more money, live longer and happier lives than people who do it themselves or who use financial salespersons as advisors.  But that is not always the truth.  We had a couple of people who fell of the bandwagon.  Shai had many clients fall off the bandwagon.

You see it is ultimately about desire.  Are you willing to do what you need to do to be financially successful?  Are you hiring the right person, someone who runs the numbers, who knows you personally and intimately, who helps you get back up when you slip and stumble, something we all do, someone who has the required training and licenses to advise you properly, someone who really cares about you and wants you to be financially successful, someone who is your greatest critic when you drift off course and someone who is your greatest advocate when you follow the program.  

There are many people who claim to prepare financial plans.  You can even prepare a simplified financial plan on line for free.  But there are only a few out of hundreds of advisors who do all of the things I just described.  

If you want to be financially successful, it is critical that you commit to a life changing experience and it is critical that you are willing to change.  Without change you will not be successful!  With change, you will have more money in retirement, you will probably live longer and hopefully have a happier and more fulfilling life!  If nothing else, you will have less stress and can delegate many of the tedious financial tasks to a firm like ours.  And by delegating these tasks, you should have more time to focus on designing and living your ideal life!

For more information on how to attain your goals we recommend Brian Tracy’s book Goals!