You’re way too busy. You’ll take care of that next month. These words probably cross your mind when you face difficult or time-consuming tasks – including financial decisions. Bad move, and here are easy first steps to finally end procrastinating about your money.
Too often we all easily delay long-term financial planning because we don’t see the results of our choices until much further on. You may also avoid the topic entirely, as it requires you confront situations that are complex, deeply private and emotional.
Still, the cost of waiting to get your financial house in order can severely affect the well-being of you and your family.
Your first step might well be to hire an experienced financial advisor who can help you better control your finances and lay the groundwork for achieving your goals. Here are four tips to help you prepare for a productive discussion with an advisor – and cross tasks off your financial to-do list for good.
Develop goals. Your advisor needs to understand what you want both soon and in the years ahead. Take time to consider and convey a complete understanding of your current financial picture.
Where are you today? What goals or milestones do you hope to accomplish over the next few years? Where do you hope to be in five, ten or 20 years?
Include your spouse and other members of your family in the process, since they will likely play a large role in prioritizing the goals. Maybe you aim to pay down credit card debt by the end of next year or you want to start a college fund for your child or save to care for elderly parents.
Your advisor can help you assess the attainability of your goals, develop appropriate timelines and strategize where to allocate money.
Identify strengths and challenges. Before you sit down with your advisor, review some of your experience regarding money and your personal finances. What challenges did you face? What strides did you already make toward your goals?
You may want to review your budget, past statements or account information to pinpoint any trends, gaps or weak spots. If possible, identify any roadblocks. For instance, you may do an excellent job depositing money into your savings each week but lack an appropriate investment strategy to build and sustain that growth.
Share with your advisor any knowledge or helpful information you built up over the years. Learn of any potential health issues (such as hereditary illnesses) that might affect your finances or your ability to achieve your long-term goals, for instance? Prepare in advance and you can focus more on finding solutions to address problem areas.
Prioritize and take action. Once your advisor reviews your needs, priorities and goals, concentrate on the most critical areas. Ask your advisor to present recommendations in order of urgency.
Also evaluate the consequences of situations or events that fall outside of your defined plan or your list of goals. Maybe in the past you opted against developing an estate plan or purchasing life insurance. Improper planning – or worse, no planning – in these areas can cause a lot of damage fast if you die unexpectedly or become incapacitated.
As your advisor develops an implementation strategy for these recommendations, he or she may coordinate with other professionals, including your attorney, insurance agent or tax advisor.
Focus seriously on the long term. Steadfastly reviewing and tracking your progress is essential to your long-term financial goals. Whether you review monthly, biannually or annually, use regular meetings with your advisor to track checkpoints and share developments that may affect your plan.
If you develop a new goal or see other life events such as marriage, a job change or a new baby, work with your advisor to adjust your plan or investments as necessary. You also want to tackle upkeep on your current strategies. This includes reviewing beneficiaries on your accounts or implementing strategies to accommodate changes in tax laws.
Financial planning is an ongoing process that evolves as your life changes. Don’t leave your goals to chance.
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Ryan McGuire is an associate consultant with Wipfli Hewins Investment Advisors LLC in Madison, Wis.
Hewins Financial Advisors, LLC d/b/a Wipfli Hewins Investment Advisors, LLC (“Hewins”) is an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Hewins is a proud affiliate of Wipfli, LLP. Information pertaining to Hewins’ advisory operations, services, and fees is set forth in Hewins’ current ADV Part 2A, copies of which are available upon request or at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov.
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