Our featured article of the month, The Financial Planning Process, outlines the six steps to creating a financial plan using the services of a CFP® professional. The CFP® Board Standards detail the expectations of a relationship between a client and their CFP® professional, providing a framework for the engagement. The standards are in place to ensure the process is thorough and understandable to both parties in order to secure the best outcome. The process is a collaborative partnership geared towards achieving a set goal. It is by no means an easy one, but few things that really matter are.
After a conversation establishing the terms of the agreement, both parties can begin working on developing goals and desired outcomes. Taking your time during this step is vitally important. Just putting something down in order to “get it over with” hardly does justice to the time and effort you have put into your life to get to this point. Talk, listen, dream and come up with the things you really believe are important to you.
Next, share these items with your partner in this process, your CFP® professional. They will analyze your goals in the context of your personal situation and help you determine the best way to reach them. Allow them some time to thoughtfully analyze and evaluate them, then communicate their best recommendations for you. Some back and forth is healthy to help further define what really matters to you. CFP® professionals who have been practicing for a long time have a lot of perspective from working with many different familial situations throughout their career. While other situations will not perfectly match your own, their insight can still prove valuable.
Finally, put your agreed upon recommendations to work and track them. Discuss how to get them in place and who is responsible for which task. Leverage the resources of a seasoned CFP® professional, who understands the industry, to guide you through the pros and cons of implementation choices. There is no one size fits all method to this part. Manage your goals as inevitable changes occur throughout time. Determine what successful goal attainment means to you and your situation, not what it means for someone else. Allow for adjustments along the way, but keep your eye on the goal.
CFP® Let’s Make a Plan
To develop a solid financial plan, it’s important to cover all your bases. Here’s how:
- Examine your current situation
- Set financial goals
- Measure your progress
From start to finish, a CFP® professional is required take you through the financial planning process to help you achieve your financial goals.
SIX STEPS TO HELP YOU CREATE A FINANCIAL PLAN
1. ESTABLISH A RELATIONSHIP WITH A CFP® PROFESSIONAL. Your financial planner is required to explain his or her financial planning services and define each of your responsibilities. Along with compensation, you’ll discuss how long the professional relationship can last and how to make decisions.
2. GATHER YOUR DATA AND DEVELOP YOUR FINANCIAL GOALS. You should gather any necessary documents and talk to your planner about your current financial situation. Together, you can define your personal and financial goals, including timeframes. You may also want to discuss your comfort level when it comes to taking financial risks.
3. ANALYZE AND EVALUATE YOUR FINANCIAL STATUS. Your CFP® professional will consider all aspects of your situation to determine what you need to do to meet your goals. Depending on what services you’ve asked for, your planner may analyze your assets, liabilities and cash flow, current insurance coverage, investments or tax strategies.
4. REVIEW YOUR CFP® PROFESSIONAL’S RECOMMENDATIONS. Your CFP® professional will go over his or her financial recommendations, explaining the rationale so you can make informed decisions. At this stage, share any concerns with your planner so any recommendations can be revised if necessary.
5. SET YOUR COURSE. You and your CFP® professional need to agree on how the recommendations will be carried out. Your planner may carry out the recommendations or serve as your coach, coordinating the process with you and other professionals, like attorneys or stockbrokers.
6. BENCHMARK YOUR PROGRESS AGAINST THE FINANCIAL GOALS YOU ESTABLISHED. As you work toward your goals, you and your CFP® professional need to decide who monitors your progress so you stay on track. If the planner is in charge, he or she will check in from time to time, reviewing your situation and making any necessary adjustments to his or her recommendations.