Make a List, Check it Twice

By: David Smyth, December 1, 2017

A couple weeks ago, I said we'd be back with some more information about the planning checklists we provide to our clients. When folks decide to come into our office for the first time, we've probably had a conversation about what to bring with you. We most likely rattled off a list, or sent you an email that spelled out all the parts of your financial life that we'd like to review. You may recall sitting in our conference room with all of those documents, and you might have thought, "what the heck am I doing?" This was, for many of you, probably the first time you'd brought your entire life into a meeting in a professional atmosphere. 
 
Before we walk in the door, we know from years of doing this, that you're probably a little nervous about having someone scrutinize your stuff. For a vast majority of you, it's not the first time you've pulled these types of documents together for a meeting with your attorney, accountant, etc. But it most likely is the first time you've pulled all of those documents together for one meeting, and you're wondering what we're going to do with all of that information. 
 
Typically, in the first few minutes, we'll let you know that our end goal is to help you organize your financial life in a way that we know can be tracked, and is simple for you to check in on and keep up with. Time has shown us that our approach produces positive results for people, as it helps clients identify, within their financial world, what's important and make those things happen. One fallacy I often hear people repeat is that they think we're here to simplify their finances. For the majority of our clients, this is not the case. There's a difference between simplifying and properly diversifying your assets. 
 
Now, it's not that we're tying to create confusion - we want you to know where your money is and why it's there. We're trying to appropriately diversify, and minimize the overall risk you're taking on a daily basis in the equity and debt markets. We always keep in mind that, no matter what you tell us you want to do from an investment and risk standpoint, one thing all of our clients have in common is that your money will eventually be spent by somebody, whether you or an heir. Therefore, it has to be available when it's needed.
 
So, now that we've got all of your investments working hard for you, you're wondering what we do with all of those other documents. Right? Well, we're going to sort through them, and we're going to ask you a ton of questions. We're not judging, I promise. We just need to know how your mind makes financial decisions. We'll ask how you made the decisions you did, and wherever we see potential potholes on your financial road map, we'll bring those to your attention. 
 
After doing financial planning for nearly 20 years, we realize that there is some magic involved, but a lot of what we do comes down to common sense. Where we see people struggle is, they get so caught up in the day-to-day tasks of living life that they focus on the trail in front of them instead of taking some time to look at the horizon, much less notice the beauty around them. As planners, we want you enjoy your journey, but we also want to make sure you're aware of any storms that are coming, or that tree that might have fallen across the trail up ahead, or those forest fires that could delay your progress, and last but not least, all those bears lurking along the hiking trail.
 
Speaking of bears, now you're thinking, Dave, I'm not Yogi or Boo Boo and you're not Ranger Smith, although I'd argue that there are some similarities. Think of our planning team as the Ranger Smith of your financial life. You know he loved those bears, but there were also rules the bears had to follow to ensure the park visitors had a good time. As your financial planning rangers, when we develop a planning checklist for you and yours, yes, there will be a few rules everyone gets - wills, where to store documents, etc., - but from there, our lists are tailored to you and your unique planning needs. 
 
Some checklists are short because you have your stuff together or you may have come from another advisor who did a decent job. Others have longer lists simply because you've never worked with an advisor, much less a full-service financial planner, and you have some catching up to do. If you have a checklist, please, take some time to pull it out and see if there's anything else that needs to be done between now and the end of the year. Even if you just get one more thing checked off, trust me, you'll feel better having one less thing to do in 2018. 
 
For those of you who don't have a planning checklist, we look forward to getting to know you and your family over the next few months, and working with you to develop a plan and list for your financial future. Know someone you think we should meet, or do you want to get to know us a little better? Come by our annual Christmas Open House, one week from today. Drop by our office between 4 and 7 p.m. on December 7 for festivities, food and friends. Hope to see you there!

Family Financial Partners | Growing Wealth, For Generations ™