A client’s initial experience in working with us is very important. It sets the stage for what the client should expect in the future. One way to enhance the initial experience is to ask the right questions to identify planning opportunities.
In this checklist, we focus on important questions to ask to identify possible planning opportunities for a new client. Some examples include the following:
Future (or recent) life events
Family structure and impact of previous marriages
Saving or distribution strategies
Cash levels that exceed FDIC limits
Debt to income ratios for future lending purposes
Future inheritances or expenses related to caring for a loved one
In the world of personal finance, working with a financial planner can be a game-changer. Whether you're new to financial planning or seeking a fresh perspective, understanding the process and knowing the right questions to ask is crucial. In this blog post, we'll dive into a checklist of essential topics to cover during your initial meeting with a financial planner. This checklist, compiled by Todd Pouliot from Gateway Financial, will help you navigate through important areas such as life events, family structure, saving strategies, debt management, and more. So, let's get started and explore what a productive initial meeting with a financial planner entails.
Life Events and Family Structure: Financial planning begins with understanding your unique circumstances. Consider any future or recent life events that may impact your financial situation, such as marriage, higher education, career changes, moves, and retirement. Additionally, take into account your family structure, previous marriages, and the implications of estate planning documents. Reviewing beneficiary designations, updating insurance needs, and addressing divorce-related financial matters are crucial steps in this process.
Saving and Distribution Strategies: Evaluate your cash flow, emergency fund, and overall saving strategies. Determine if your savings are aligned with your goals and explore options like employer retirement plans, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). Assess your retirement account distributions, required minimum distributions (RMDs), and consider the tax efficiency of your distribution strategy.
Asset and Debt Management: Review your investment portfolio and assess your risk tolerance and objectives for each account. Evaluate cash levels and explore alternative investment opportunities with potentially higher interest rates. Examine debts with high-interest rates and work towards debt reduction. Ensure that your total monthly debt payments remain within a reasonable percentage of your gross monthly income.
Employee Benefits and Equity Compensation: Maximize the benefits offered by your employer, such as Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts. Understand equity compensation plans, including stock options, restricted stock, and employee stock purchase plans. Consider tax consequences, vesting schedules, and the potential use of Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) for property ownership.
Long-Term Planning and Estate Considerations: Discuss major future expenses, such as purchasing a second home, and review your estate plan. Determine if funding long-term care expenses is necessary and plan for potential inheritances. Evaluate insurance coverage, including life, disability, and property casualty insurance. Explore charitable inclinations and address any state-specific issues that may affect your financial plan.
Personal Concerns and Behavioral Finance: Finally, communicate any other personal concerns you may have. Financial planning is not solely about numbers; it also takes into account your values, goals, and aspirations. Understanding your "why" behind your financial decisions and behaviors allows the financial planner to tailor their advice to your unique circumstances.
An initial meeting with a financial planner sets the stage for a successful long-term partnership. By following this checklist and addressing important areas like life events, family structure, saving strategies, debt management, and estate considerations, you can ensure that your financial plan is comprehensive and aligned with your goals. Remember, each person's financial journey is unique, and working with a skilled financial planner can help you navigate the complexities and make informed decisions.