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16 Financial Planning Questions to Answer in 2021

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Right now, clients are preparing to financially close the book on 2020 and looking ahead to 2021. Almost everyone is hoping for a better year. You can help make that happen by reviewing this list of 16 questions financial guru Bryce Sanders has prepared and helping your clients ensure they don't wind up in an unexpected yet avoidable situation.

Jan 11th 2021
President Perceptive Business Solutions Inc.
Columnist
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Many clients don’t see the need for financial planning. They earn more than they spend. They keep current on their bills or make minimum payments. Life is good. What could possibly go wrong? The answer, unfortunately, is: Plenty.

When something unexpected happens, they find themselves acting, not reacting. Some problems never get addressed. Here are 16 client questions that need answers. They support financial planning you offer as an advisory service.

1. What would I do if my job suddenly disappeared? You need to find a new one. This will take time. Unemployment insurance or severance payments likely won’t close the gap in income.

Action: You need an emergency fund or the ability to borrow.

2. What is my plan for retirement? The question might be: “Will I be able to retire?” You have retirement assets at work. You contribute over time. Is it enough?

Action: You need to run basic retirement scenarios and have a plan to accumulate enough assets in time.  

3. What if something happened to me? You likely are a dual-income family. Raising a family takes everything you earn. If one of you were no longer in the picture, income would suffer while expenses continued.

Action: Insurance offers protection. There are many kinds of life insurance. You may have some through your job, but what if you no longer had your job?

4. How much money automatically disappears from my bank account? Rent, car payments, insurance bills  and your gym membership are a few examples.

Action: Know the amount. Not all these expenditures are essential. Some might be out of date. You might have dropped the gym, but they didn’t drop you. Review those charges.

5. How much do I spend out of pocket in an average month? Eight dollars a day on lunch doesn’t sound like a lot, but over 20 days, it’s $160 after tax dollars every month. You take cash advances and make impulse purchases.

Action: Review your credit card and bank statements. Figure out how much you spend. Determine where it goes. Money talks. It says goodbye.

6. How much do I owe on credit cards? What am I paying? It’s easy to get into the habit of making only monthly minimum payments. Suddenly, you are carrying thousands of dollars in revolving charge card debt at high interest rates.

Action: Develop a plan to pay down that debt. The easiest way to “earn” a 15 percent annual return is to stop paying a 15 percent APR on a credit card.

7. How much money am I saving? The answer might be none. You won’t build up a retirement nest egg or emergency fund if you spend everything coming in and more.

Action: Buy into the logic “pay yourself first.” Don’t let savings be an afterthought.

8. What am I paying my broker in fees? It’s probably more than you think. If you have a good advisor, it’s money well spent. If not, you have alternatives.

Action: Review your statements and ask your advisor for a review of your fees. As their accountant you can help if the information isn’t forthcoming. If they seem high, politely ask for a discount.

9. How much risk am I taking in my investment portfolio? Many people invest on their own yet are unaware what can go wrong. Examples are concentrated positions in a single stock or industry.

Action: Your advisor should provide annual reviews. Most firms produce reports showing your returns and the degree of risk you took achieving them.

10. How involved do I want to be with my investments? Markets are open 24/7 when you include foreign ones. Some people like choosing stocks. Others want to outsource day-to-day decision making to professional money managers. This costs money.

Action: Have this discussion with your advisor. If you invest on your own, have this talk with your accountant.

11. What will my child’s wedding eventually cost? It’s not an obvious expense, but it happens. Children grow up quickly. We think about the cost of our own wedding decades ago. As parents, you will be expected to cover all or part of the cost.

Action: Average wedding costs by state of metro area are easy to access online. Your financial planner can help.

12. How am I going to pay for my children’s education? Most people assume education means college. Some parents find themselves paying college-tuition-sized bills for private high schools. A graduate degree might come as an unplanned expense.

Action: Understand the costs. They are easy to research. A financial planner can help. Start saving early. Encourage gift giving family members to send checks in that direction.

13. What am I paying in health insurance? What does it cover? It might be provided through your workplace. If you are self employed, you pay the freight. Costs rise faster than inflation.

Action: Know your coverage and deductibles. Shop around. If you are over 65, you are probably covered by Medicare, but you will need supplemental insurance.

14. Will I need long-term care someday? According to Morningstar, 52 percent of Americans over age 65 will need long-term care during their lifetimes. 

Action: You need to think this through. There’s specific insurance you can buy. As with most things, the younger you are, the cheaper the cost.

15. What are my responsibilities to my parents? Are they financially independent, or will you become their long-term caregiver?

Action: You need to consider “what if” situations and the costs involved.

16. How will my children learn about money management? Many of these questions are eye-opening. As generous parents, your children have not needed to worry about money or where it comes from. It comes from you. They need to learn about budgeting, bill paying and other money management strategies.

Action: As their accountant, this could be a class or webinar you could provide. Your clients should thank you.

Some clients will have answers to all these questions. If not, are you in a position to provide comprehensive financial planning as an advisory service?

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