How We Do What We Do
We all know from our doctors that we must take care of ourselves -- don't smoke, do eat fresh vegetables, fish and fruit daily, do exercise three times a week, he says -- or our bodies will deteriorate faster than normal. This stewardship of our health may prolong our lives.
Likewise, financial planning is the disciplined yet flexible stewardship of our "serious" money. It is meant, of course, to keep our financial health into our retirement. It sounds simple -- go out, buy an investment, and let it sit -- but financial stewardship is much more complex than that view. Both the planner and the process can in fact, be keys toward achieving your passport to retirement.
Let me tell you how I work with clients. There are six steps to what I do:
- Assess the current situation.
- Assess financial objectives and priorities.
- Determine the most appropriate course to pursue objectives.
- Review recommendations and determine the appropriate action.
- Implement decisions.
- Periodically review and report financial progress regularly.
Below I've added detail to the steps in the process I take with people. I invite you to read through it and see if you agree.
1. Assess the current situation
I begin by sitting down with a person or couple and reviewing what they have already done or what they have in investments. I listen; I make no comments or suggestions about their finances at this stage. It would be premature.
2. Listen, listen, listen to assess their financial objectives and priorities.
In the same meeting, I ask people to explain to me their concerns and what they expect from their investments. I listen, listen, listen. Because I am a financial professional, it is my business to know the possibilities out there. Their answers may give me some ideas of the kind of financial vehicle to research. But it is still too early to share those ideas. In the same session, I also ask them to describe what is important to them about their money. Of course, I take notes on all of this.
3. Determine the most appropriate course to pursue their financial objectives.
Now my homework begins. In my office, I take out several charts and enter the answers I was given into the charts. This gives me a visual profile of the potential client's wants and needs and keeps me on the appropriate track. Then, I begin to research various strategies and related investment vehicles. Once my research is done, my assistant calls to set up a second appointment with people so they can review my recommendations.
4. Review recommendations and determine the appropriate action.
When we sit down for the second time, I review the profile I created from their needs and desires to show them the connection between what they want and what I will suggest. Next, I lay out my suggestions, and I carefully explain the rationale behind the strategies I offer. Then, it is up to the person to decide what to do next. He or she may be open to the ideas presented or may want more ideas.
5. Implement decisions.
Whenever the person or couple commits to improving their financial position, it is my job to carry out the transfer process and to allocate the funds properly.
6. Periodically review and report financial progress regularly.
It is also my job to keep my fingers on the planning progress as well as investment performance. If a strategy is not taking hold or an investment program is underperforming, I will call the client, raise my concerns and suggest changes if need be. Anyone with investments ought to touch base with their financial advisor at least once a quarter. The future is never predictable: investment managers change investment mixes change, and many things can happen. That is why a knowledgeable financial professional can be such a good investment in financial stewardship.