“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” – Alan Lakein
If that sounds like a downer, that is not the intention! Everything in life is about balance, so perhaps taking on a mindset of making the most of today while planning for a longer tomorrow is more helpful in ensuring a happy and healthy long life. Whether an outcome of living through the past few years or a shift in overall mindset, popular culture today encourages us to focus on the now, live for today, and seize the moment. While that thinking is true in the sense that we should appreciate what we have in the present, we can’t forget about our future – a future that according to many studies shows we are living longer and incurring increased health care costs and other expenses.
If you’re unsure where you stand on saving for retirement or what you’ll need to be comfortable for an extended period once you decide to stop working, here’s a quick checklist of activities to go through with your loved ones.
- Explore Your Possibilities – Are there dreams and goals that you have for yourself and your family? Exploring what it takes to realize those dreams and goals through financial planning will give you a realistic picture and concrete road map to follow. It is important to explore not just your dreams and goals, but events or circumstances that could stand in the way of achieving them. Things like a major illness, a pause from work, a divorce, or other life events could create a major financial setback if planning ahead is not done.
- Avoid Potential Mistakes – The act of planning involves thinking through the steps required to reach a goal. This process helps us to identify potential problems, barriers, or negative consequences that may arise along the way. Limiting and even avoiding these mistakes help us to achieve our goals more readily and smoothly.
- Make Informed Decisions – Comprehensive financial planning is a deep, rigorous process of identifying financial needs and goals, and then exploring possible ways of achieving those goals under current and future circumstances. With this clear picture and understanding, we are better equipped to make informed decisions that align with our specific goals and priorities.
- Choose Your Dream Team – No one needs to walk alone when it comes to planning your financial future. Assembling your “dream team” keeps you covered in all areas of your life. Your financial planner, for instance, often acts as the quarterback, coordinating a comprehensive, seamless plan for you and your family. Other important members of your team may include a tax professional, estate planning attorney, mortgage broker, or insurance specialist. When a critical life event arises, you will have your trusted team members to call upon for guidance and direction.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about where to begin with creating a comprehensive financial plan that addresses your goals and helps you plan for an extended future, just remember that the key is just to get started. Often, circumstances in our lives will drive the areas that are most relevant at that time. For instance, if we are raising children, we might be focused on education funding, as well as covering the risk of a disability or premature death to ensure that our dependents are taken care of if we are not there. As we progress in our careers and income grows, finding tax advantaged ways to maximize saving for retirement is a high priority. Similarly, helping our aging parents with elder care support or our own future long-term care needs becomes more important as we age. Income replacement strategies, legacy planning, and business succession grow in importance as we are approaching retirement.
One thing we know for sure is that things change – we all experience life events such as death, divorce, change of job, and retirement, to name a few. Because our lives and goals are changing, along with external changes in our world, it is critical to revisit our financial plan regularly. It is strongly recommended that you meet with your financial planner at least annually, more frequently if needed. Modifying your comprehensive financial plan to incorporate life changes will ensure your financial “picture” is clear and the strategies for meeting your goals are aligned.
Working with a comprehensive financial planner will help certify that you are addressing the elements that are most appropriate for your situation and financial wellbeing. Remember – a goal without a plan is just a wish, so it’s important to turn the goals you have for yourself and your family into reality by creating a financial plan today. That will enable you to achieve the future you envision and deserve.