Putting your financial plan into action with discipline

I wrote in my first blog  about how good maps are useful, but how good plans actually get you there. And I finished my last blog saying that the best financial plan in the world will come up short without proper implementation.

In other words, why bother investing time and money in an otherwise great plan if it more or less sits on the proverbial shelf, all-but ignored save for a yearly check in?

Your planner should never do this. And as the client, you should never allow that to happen.

So, in this blog I’ll ask and answer two key questions when it comes to implementation:

1. What should you expect of your financial planner when it comes to putting your plan into action?

2. And what should you expect of yourself in the same manner?

I’ll start with the planner.

My colleagues and I at T.E. Wealth take the view – and always have – that implementation takes rigour and discipline. And, just as we customize every financial plan, we also strongly believe that implementation is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It should be customized and confidential, leading to measureable goals that suit your long-term needs. In short, it evolves with you over your career, your family years, and into retirement.

Here are a few things to look and ask for when it comes to implementation.

a) Detailed execution – There are often many details to take care of when executing a plan, especially at the beginning and when there are significant life events (i.e., setting up a family foundation and buying/selling significant assets). Experienced planners and their support staff should proactively execute all these details, coming to their clients as efficiently as possible for confirmations and signatures.

They should also coordinate any interactions with other service professionals, such as estate lawyers and accountants. A seamless approach to coordinating professional services generates tangible value, saves times, and avoids a silo approach that addresses only part of your whole situation.

b) Regular updates – Planners should regularly check your plan’s performance and maintain regular contact with you to ensure the plan still suits your needs. This is particularly relevant during a life event, such as a big executive promotion or the purchase of a second or third investment property. It’s fair to say that we nag our clients, in the nicest way, when it comes to providing updates in person. And in my view, such updates should never be less than a yearly event.

c) Relevant reading for additional context – Many high net worth individuals are very successful in their own fields. Likewise, an experienced planner succeeds when he/she helps clients understand the broader context of customized wealth protection and growth strategies through relevant market updates and thought-provoking articles. The key here is relevance, not vast numbers of in-box busting emails.

Meanwhile, I suggest that you as the client should consider the following:

a) Explore the options in setting goals – In my experience, some high net worth clients don’t fully understand what they can do with their money because they may not realize the options available to them. Work with your planner to understand how your money can work for you, whatever your lifestyle and life stage. Then set financial goals that build on what you have and where you want to be. And a little dreaming never hurts. After all it’s your money.

b) Relevant disclosure – Thorough research is the firm foundation on which all financial plans should be based. Without taking steps to build this foundation – that is, if the client doesn’t invest some time sharing relevant information upfront and along the way, especially during life events – any financial plan will suffer. In other words, you won’t get full value out of the planner helping you. So try to be as proactive as appropriate in sharing such information. This often comes naturally within trust-based, long-term relationships between you and your planner.

c) Ask questions – Some details of tax and investment planning, for example, can be complex. But there should be no mystery around how those elements of planning are being put to work in your best interests. Similarly, what about benchmarks? How does your plan’s rate of return compare to the market? What defines good performance?

Ask these and other questions if you don’t understand something about the planning and implementation process. Experienced planners provide clarity, not confusion. A recent blog on tax efficient investing by my colleague Brent Soucie is a great example of bringing clarity to a detailed topic.

I’ll be writing about related financial planning themes in my upcoming blogs. For example, I’ll talk more about benchmarking and success criteria when it comes to protecting and growing your money.

In the meantime, please let me know how T.E. Wealth can assist you in any way on your path to financial independence.

Scott McKenzie leads a group of six financial professionals within T. E. Wealth. Together they work with over 300 high net worth private clients providing comprehensive financial planning, tax preparation and investment management services.

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These articles are for general informational purposes only. Please obtain professional advice before taking any action based on this information. No endorsement or approval of any third parties or their advice, information, products or services should be implied by any references to third parties contained in any article. Trademarks cited in these articles are the respective properties of their owners.

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