While focusing most of our time and effort on the intricate details of financial planning, it’s also important not to overlook the big picture: financial planning concepts that are vital for long-term success. Below are some big picture items I find lacking in retirement plans.
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Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best
If you are close to retirement or currently in retirement, planning for worst-case scenarios is vital to ensure you can navigate the many twists and turns life throws your way. Depending on your unique situation, some planning items you should think about include building an appropriate emergency cash reserve, using conservative rate of return assumptions on investment portfolios, or ensuring timely and proper execution of estate documents (wills, powers of attorney, healthcare directives, etc.). These documents can be extremely important in case of premature death or disability.
While it is more fun to focus on the positive, focusing on less desirable potential outcomes can help build your confidence in knowing that a quality of life will be maintained for our immediate family and that any assets will be preserved for your next of kin.
The ability for multiple family members to be able to execute a financial plan is vital to long-term success. Far too often, there is one household member who holds all the keys to the financial kingdom; if something unforeseen happens to that person, then the plan falls apart.
Recommendation: Have a detailed discussion about the plan with significant others that are not taking the financial lead. Cover, at a minimum, how bills are paid, how and where money is invested, and specific steps one must take in the absence of the head of the financial household. If the significant other is overwhelmed by this discussion, seek the help of a Certified Financial Planner™ to assist.
Include Children/Relatives in the Planning Process
In addition to educating significant others on the plan, it often makes sense to include other family members, particularly children, in the process. If you have substantial amounts of wealth, your plan may affect how children execute their own planning. Still, it is about continuity and having the children understand potential roles dealing with end-of-life care for parents and estate administration.
Recommendation: While parents can be hesitant to share financial details with their children, it is worth giving them at least a high-level rundown of the financial plan, the vulnerabilities in the plan, and how those vulnerabilities could affect them.
Ask for Help
If you need help organizing the pieces of your retirement plan, find someone you can trust for financial help.
Recommendation: 1) Hire a fiduciary, preferably a Certified Financial Planner™, who is legally bound to operate in your best interest 2) Hire someone willing to take the time to understand your goals and objectives, 3) Hire someone who can clearly articulate an investment approach to accomplish your goals, and 4) Hire someone who is accessible and responsive with understandable updates about your strategy and how it remains in your best interest.
Marshall Clay CFP, J.D., is a Partner and Senior Advisor at The Welch Group, LLC, specializing in providing Fee-Only investment management and financial advice to families throughout the United States. Marshall is a graduate of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama, and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. In addition, Marshall is a frequent guest on local television stations as an expert on various financial planning matters.
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