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Master List of Goals

Updated: Jan 20

Goal setting is fundamental to sound financial planning. Whether we are meeting with new or long-term clients, it is essential to identify and prioritize their objectives before making recommendations. Often, clients may have difficulty expressing and assigning precedence to their goals. Or, they may simply overlook a need or objective. As an advisor, we are tasked with the challenge of uncovering and framing clients’ goals.

In response to this challenge, we’ve created this “Master List Of Goals.” This resource is inspired by the work of Ray Sin, Ph.D.; Ryan O. Murphy, Ph.D.; and Samantha Lamas, who authored “Goals-Based Financial Planning: How Simple Lists Can Overcome Cognitive Blind Spots” in the Journal of Financial Planning.

These foundational questions help you expand our clients’ understanding and awareness of possible goals for them to consider, including:

  • Retirement and lifestyle goals

  • Tax planning & healthcare goals

  • Self-development and professional goals

  • Estate planning and wealth transfer goals


Hi, Todd Pouliot, Gateway Financial. Feel free to visit us at And again, I wanted to personally thank all of our subscribers, we really appreciate you out there. Today, we're going to do a different type of checklist. This is a response to a challenge that was given to us and it's called, “The master list of goals” And, this resource was inspired by the work of Ray Sin, Ph.D.; Ryan Murphy, Ph.D.; and Samantha Lamas, who authored “Goals-Based Financial Planning: How Simple Lists Can Overcome Cognitive Blind Spots” in the Journal of Financial Planning. I hope you're enjoying these videos. We do these very unedited, without any cuts so you can see what it's like to work with us and get to know our personality and kind of our culture and what we're like. And, we really appreciate all the subscribers out there, and thanks for coming back. So, we're going to cover four main topics today: retirement and lifestyle goals, tax planning and healthcare goals, self-development and professional goals, estate planning, and wealth transfer goals. And, we hope goal setting is fundamental to sound financial planning. That's step one of financial planning whether we're meeting with new or long-term clients, it's essential to identify and prioritize their objectives before making any recommendations. Often clients have difficulty expressing and assigning precedence to their goals or they may simply overlook a need or an objective. And as an advisor, we're tasked with the challenge of uncovering and framing clients’ goals. So, as we always do, we're going to share our screen here and show you our checklist. A little different layout here. I don't think this changes too much but we always leave room to add to this checklist for new goals or others that may not be on our radar. So, retirement goals. Do you need help deciding when to retire? Most people have a mental date already in their head but that may or may not be an effective date of retirement. Some people save too much, some people save too little and how that interacts with social security planning, medicare planning, cash flow planning, and tax planning really is a very difficult decision on when to retire. And obviously, when the markets have been doing wonderful as they've done for the last 10-15 years, you know, retirement seems much more likely and much earlier. But then you have these market corrections that we've seen here in the first quarter of 2022, and boy, that makes everybody take a step back. So, that is a very good thing to start out with deciding when to retire and also how to retire with dignity and plan on staying retired with dignity. Do you want to retire early? Do you want to slow down and work part-time or semi-retired? That's a great conversation. Instead of using the word retirement, I like to use the word financial freedom to go and do work when and how, and where you'd like, might be an option for you. Sabbaticals during your career, I know that's becoming very very popular. Feel confident about your plans for retirement – do you feel confident? And, that's ultimately the goal is to have the client feel confident. Just because we're confident doesn't mean they are and we need to kind of give them some evidence-based financial planning to show them that they should feel confident. Do you want to feel confident about your retirement income sources, investment accounts, retirement plans, pension plans, and social security? Boy, that's what financial planning software does a great job with. Do you want to feel confident about your current and future financial situation? And, do you plan to change your residency in retirement? That is a big discussion. One time we had a spouse in here and one of the spouses started crying because there was a purchase of a home in a different state at retirement in the plan when she first looked at it and she thought he was gonna divorce her. Well, that wasn't the case, he had always planned on doing that, they just had never talked about that. And, that's part of financial planning sometimes it's a little bit of psychology in here as well. So, we always make sure we have the tissue box ready. So, that's just retirement goals. That's just what some people come to us. But we also have family goals and those are really important for me personally. Do you want to have or adopt a child? Do you want to save for a child or relative's education? Do you want to save for any family milestones? Somebody that passes the bar or bat mitzvahs, graduations, weddings, etcetera. Do you want to support family members who may require special needs planning? Boy, that's been a very hot topic over the last few years. Do you have any parents or other family members you want to care for? Again, another hot topic. And, do you plan to change your marital status? So, that is a big topic of conversation if that's something that's out there – that you're single, might want to get married later on in life or married may want to plan for divorce. Self-development and professional goals. Yes, we do talk about professional goals and self-development here as well. Do you want to achieve financial independence or improve your overall financial health? I sure hope you're marking yes if you're a new client of ours or a prospective client of ours. Do you want to pursue more education or certifications for personal or professional reasons? I've been working with both of our offices of the senate here last year trying to get 529 plans specific to this continuing education and certifications for professional development reasons. Are you looking for professional advancement, a new job, or a career promotion? We've got a great video already on YouTube about the new job or promotion. Go ahead and look that up. Do you want to optimize your employee benefits and compensation packages? So many times we review certain employer's compensation packages and we see that employees are not taking full advantage of either their stock options, health care plan, deferred compensation, whatever or even employee matching on 401k plans. Do you want to start your own business? It used to be the ‘American dream’ was to own a home or chicken in every pot or own an automobile but this is vastly becoming the ‘American dream’ is running your own business because that can allow you some financial freedom and autonomy as well. Do you want to reduce of market volatility on your investments? So, we moved out a professional and now we're in that asset and debt goal and this is kind of more of the nitty-gritty financial planning aspect. Do you want to increase the rate of return on your investments? With inflation as high as it is right now after Q1 of 2020, these are big concerns for people. Hiding cash in your savings account is locking in losses every day – your money will continue to shrink. Do you want to improve your cash flow? Either increase income or reduce expenses. It's just like dieting – eat less, move more. A very simple way to work on cash flow. But most people don't even work on their budget and that's what we want to look at is – “What is your budget? Can we help you increase income or reduce expenses?” Not having that latte at Starbucks is not going to make you a millionaire but finding the leaks in the holes in that cash flow area will. Do you want to increase the amount you keep in your emergency fund? Now again, this is that cash on hand for three or six months depending on what your plan is. If you keep it in a savings account it will keep shrinking. Where you can look at things that might be able to increase that emergency account over time because if you keep it in a bank account and you have seven percent inflation like we did last month you're going to have to keep contributing to that emergency fund more and more and more to keep pace. So, be careful with that emergency fund, make sure it's doing what it should be doing. Do you want to save more for future goals? Do you want to protect your real and personal property from risk? People always ask us why we talk about that so much because if we do all this great financial planning and you don't have that risk taken care of through property and casualty insurance or umbrella coverage or life insurance or whatever, that can really blow your plan up real fast and that also includes estate planning as well. Do you want to refinance or pay off any loans such as mortgages or student loans? Boy, the last 15 years have been really great for that. We've had very easy, cheap money. Now, the Fed is starting to raise rates and that is going to complicate these issues for some people, especially if you already have a variable-rate loan that'll be much more complicated. Do you want to refinance, consolidate, or pay off any debts such as high-interest credit cards? I really hope you don't have any debt but this is something you need to look at and have a debt plan that can tell you different types of ways of getting out of debt. And boy, what a relief it is when you pay something off and now you can pay more to another debt and more to another debt. So, you may have heard of snowball or avalanche type of debt planning. Do you have plans for a second home or a vacation – investment – rental property? These are great ideas that can also lead to that self-development and professional goals with rental property that could be your own business. That could provide you with some supplemental income. So, this master list of goals is just a list to get talking and thinking about again, before you make any recommendations as an advisor, you really need to know what people's wishes and wants are. Again, lifestyle goals. Planning to move, planning to purchase or sell a home, a significant home improvement, or major purchase. Be careful with those significant purchases that may become a problem and how that affects your overall financial plan. Buy or lease a vehicle? Boy, recently posted a video on that – hope you got to watch that buy or lease video that we have. Do you want to plan a large vacation now or in the future? Tax planning goals. This is my favorite topic. I think I start salivating when I hear the words tax planning. Do you want to reduce your tax liability now? Do you want to reduce your tax liability in the future? Do you want to support a charity? And, are you planning to sell a business, real estate, or other major assets? Now, I want to caution everybody who wants to click yes and yes, “I always want to reduce my tax” but you have to understand what those things are and what the reasoning is for those. Reduce your tax liability now, contribute to a 401k, an HSA, or an IRA. You can do things to reduce your tax liability now. Reduce your tax liability in the future, Roth 401k, Roth IRA, and HSA again, that can play on both. But be careful, you know, it's pay me now or pay me later in some respects, so we need to make a plan, you know, do we want to levelize tax across, do we want to have this payment of tax and then drop in retirement or do we want to pay low now when we have a higher income but you may pay later because of future tax increases that we may have? So, those are things about tax planning and just we could go on and on about tax planning but those are some of the goals that it's good to know from a client. “I am anti-tax or I'm pro-tax” “I'd rather pay it now” and “I don't want to pay tax later because I'll have social security tax to pay” So, those are great tax planning discussions. Healthcare goals. Do you need to plan for a disability? You know, as I personally age, I find more people get sicker and sicker because we're becoming older and older and that's what happens when you age as you have more friends that have long-term health care issues. Do you want to plan for long-term care expenses? Boy, some people self-insure some people have a third party insure their long-term care. And, be cognizant, you don't plan for it but even people under the age of 65 or senior citizens do have long-term care expenses at times. Future medical expenses. Make changes to your health insurance coverage annually. Look at your health insurance coverage annually, plans are changing all the time even if you use something like Do you want to age in your home and avoid a nursing home? There's a lot of planning that goes into that conversation. Do you need to prepare for a possible illness for either you or your spouse? I know when I was in my mid-30s I had a sudden health care event and let's just say that the house went bananas with me and my wife and you know, it was a sudden illness and thankfully, everything went away as miraculously as it appeared. But you know, do you need to prepare for those possibilities and what that can mean? And then now to estate planning and wealth transfer goals. Do you want to provide gifts to your children and loved ones during your lifetime? This is a great conversation to have if you have children it's also a great conversation to have if you don't have children. Is there a charity out there or maybe a loved one – a niece or a nephew that you feel a special bond with that you might be able to help in the long term? Protect your assets from creditors, bankruptcies, or divorce. This is a great conversation for certain professions that have a lot more personal liability risk. And, do you want to feel secure that your appointed fiduciaries will carry out your wishes in the event of your incapacity or death? Yes. We do talk about this situation. Make sure you choose somebody that understands financial matters for your financial power of attorney. Make sure you choose somebody that has a good healthcare background for your healthcare power of attorney. You need to understand that one person might not be able to handle both but it may be only one person that you trust and understands your wishes and that's why planning ahead matters. Ensure your spouse or other family members are cared for in the event of your death. I love this conversation because that shows a sign of love and that's ultimately what financial planning is about, is about love and making sure that your goals are set for taking care of your family, and your future, and not being a burden on others. Charitable organizations that you want to support. Obviously, if you know me, my wife and I support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in northeast Ohio. We have a healthy kid and we just want to help others who don't and that's a great thing to do is look at your charitable organizations. Do you want to ensure your assets pass to your heirs easily? There are financial planning ways of doing that – beneficiary designations are an easy way to help that process but some people don't do that right, so make sure you have that set up. Do you want to place some restrictions on the assets your heirs will inherit? We live in a very complicated world, very complicated individuals that live in our world, and we want to make sure that we don't hurt people emotionally or financially or even health-wise, so if you have an heir who might have an addiction or a mental illness and an influx of cash may kill them and then that is something that we have to be cognizant of how we handle our heirs and how we help them. Not the – restriction is a difficult word to hear but doing things the right way for your heirs and taking care of them the right way. And, any miscellaneous goals. That's always that thing that somebody can come to us and say, “Hey, I've got this idea for this goal that I'd like to talk to you about.” And, you know, that's where that ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ box is and we can always write down and take notes and look at your personal financial plan. You know, I think that's one of the things that we as financial advisors or financial planners or wealth strategists, whatever designation, financial coach, life planner. We need to take into account what our client's goals are and ultimately make the plan that's best for them. So, when you work with a full-time fiduciary like we are and sit on the client side of the table, it's not our plan and what we think is right, it's not our risk tolerance or our investment philosophies that matter, it's our clients that matter. It's their goal, it's their plan and long after we're gone or even the client is gone, that's the most important thing is to make sure that their wishes are taken care of. And, I really hope that you find these checklists and flow charts very helpful. Again, we don't edit these it's just a dry run so you know how we work together and how we speak and talk, and our language. And, we try to make this as easy as possible so people can understand it and not feel judged. And, I think that is a big thing that we want people to understand is financial planning without judgment. So, thumbs up, man we appreciate it when you do that, it helps us with the algorithm. Subscribe, we really love to have you subscribe to our channel. And, let us know what you think and what workflows and checklists are good that you like and comment on those to us and let us know what you really appreciate. Let us know something we haven't posted yet that you'd like. We've got a whole bunch of videos we've made already, I think this is number 41 in our series and we probably have a hundred more to go but we'll keep bringing them to you as long as you keep hitting that subscribe button. We appreciate you, we thank you, and we hope you have a great day, be well.

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