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The Key Steps to Financial Planning

There are six key steps to the financial planning process, according to the Canadian Association of Financial Planners (CAFP). The following is partially adapted from material on the CAFP and FPSC web sites at http://www.cafp.org and http://www.cfp-ca.org respectively. It’s an indication of what you can expect in a comprehensive personal evaluation with a qualified Financial Advisor.

(1) The financial planner examines your current financial situation by collecting and evaluating all relevant information, including:

-*Basic family information (name, age, marital status, employment history, details of the children's birth dates and other qualitative details)

-*Net worth & cash flow statements

-*Investment portfolio

-*Insurance policies

-*Tax returns

-*Wills

-*Powers of attorney

-*Employee benefit plans

-*Trust agreements

-*Pension statements

This tells the advisor what your financial situation is today. It is a record of all of the financial decisions and transactions you have made in the past up until the current time.

The preliminary assessment should include family obligations, goals and objectives. Although the advisor may be dealing primarily with one individual, he or she represents an entire household. The financial advisor should ensure that all concepts introduced are fully understood. Privacy issues, which are paramount to some, should be addressed at this stage to ensure that the planner is able to obtain enough accurate information to develop the financial plan.


(2) The financial planner will help you focus upon financial and personal goals and objectives as well as clarify your financial and personal values and attitudes. These may include providing for children's education, supporting elderly parents or addressing immediate financial concerns, which would enable you to improve your current lifestyle and provide for retirement. These considerations are important in determining your personal financial planning strategy. Goals established should be:

Specific.
If goals are not specifics, they are merely dreams. “I require 0,000 by my 65th birthday” is an example of a specific goal. “I want to be rich when I retire” is a dream, not a goal.

Measurable.
Financial goals are easily measurable since dollars and cents can be counted.

Realistic and attainable.
Your goals must be achievable, within reason. To accumulate million by age 65, if you are currently 60 and have no savings is not realistically achievable. To accumulate million by age 65, if you are only 25 is attainable and realistic.

Time bound.
All goals should be time bound in order to measure progress towards the goal's completion, with deadlines for meeting specific objectives. If time deadlines are missed then changes can be made in the action plan to improve the probability of success. If goals are seen to be unattainable and/or unrealistic, you can do one or more of the following to get back on track:

-*Reduce discretionary expenditures – i.e. save more money to put aside for investments,
-*Increase income,
-*Choose more aggressive investments, with the potential for higher returns,
-*Increase the timeframe over which to obtain the goal, e.g., push forward your date of retirement until you have accumulated the funds you need.
-*Reduce the dollar value of your goal.

(3) The financial planner will identify the problem areas that are preventing you from achieving your objectives. These can include things like too little or too much insurance coverage, or an unnecessarily high tax burden. Maybe your investment portfolio needs to be upgraded to take advantage of current opportunities. Problem areas must be identified before solutions can be found.

(4) The financial planner will provide written recommendations and alternative solutions. This is your financial action plan and it should be structured to meet your individual needs and circumstances, without undue emphasis on purchasing certain investment products.

(5) The financial planner will implement your plan, either by actually executing the recommendations himself, or in coordinating their execution with other professionals as required. A financial plan is only helpful if the recommendations are put into action. Implementing the right strategy will help to reach the desired goals and objectives.

(6) The financial planner will schedule periodic reviews of the plan to assure that the goals are achieved, and implement revisions to the plan if required to meet your goals. Your financial situation and the progress of your plan should be re-assessed at least once a year to account for changes in your personal and professional life as well as current economic conditions.

The initial planning stages normally involve a meeting with the client to discuss the most important issues. Often, a questionnaire is used to quantify cash flow, current financial position, and goals. The development of a financial plan also involves an assessment of future expenses, obligations, earning or income prospects, and financial risk. Any constraints are noted at this time in order to facilitate the plan.

Once a draft version of the financial plan has been produced, your advisor will discuss it with you for clarity and final approval. All aspects of the plan should be clear to you at this time. If it appears to meet your needs and objectives, it may be implemented.


About the Author: ProfessionalReferrals is an on-line provider of high-quality referrals to professionals within the Financial Services industry. We operate an on-line library of articles and information designed to provide a consumers’ guide to the financial services marketplace. Our on-line advisor network is available to members of the public to find and contact professional advisors in their neighborhood. we specialise in Financial Planning in Canada and Financial Planning in the United States.




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