Financial Planning in a Complex World

In today's complex economic climate, making the right decisions about financial matters becomes vitally important. Taking the time to explore available financial planning services will help protect against the ups and downs of a fluctuating economy. The various stages in life from the first job to raising a family, paying for a college education and eventual retirement all have an impact on personal financial conditions. There may be unforeseen conditions that occur such as a job loss, care for an aging parent or medical needs that call for additional funds. A professional financial planner has the expertise and knowledge to help guide their clients through the many aspects of life. They become a shoulder to lean on if a crisis occurs and the person to call when life changes and financial matters must adapt.

Even well seasoned investors have seen the results of a declining stock market and plunging real estate prices. The fluctuating market conditions create questions about where to go next and skepticism about choosing the best investment path. By consulting with a professional financial planner, many of the lingering questions about where and when to invest, how to plan for the future and what are realistic expectations will be answered. Financial planners spend many hours analyzing the current financial conditions and reviewing trends so that their clients regain positive financial health.

One of the first steps to take before finding an appropriate financial planner is to have a complete understanding about the services that they provide. This will make an immediate difference in a family's financial state and will ensure that long term goals have been thoroughly planned.

Why Use a Financial Planner

To seek expert advice: A professional financial planner is dedicated to providing advice about all monetary and investment issues. They are certified in their field and have spent many hours seeking the training and education necessary to perform the job. Reading financial reports on the Internet or in the local business section of the paper is fine but having the ability to transfer that information into a practical financial plan takes experience and knowledge. Using the services of a financial planner offers peace of mind that all avenues have been explored and a well designed economic plan is in place.

To eliminate time consuming financial tasks: Being able to offload financial issues to a professional allows more time for the job, the family and pleasurable activities. Many long hours may be spent monitoring and evaluating financial gains and losses and interpreting market conditions. Leaving these tasks to a full time financial planner relieves the burden of solving complex issues and allows more free time.

To evaluate current financial status and set future goals: The variety of investment options, types and availability of insurance policies and overall savings plans make it difficult to choose which approach will be the most effective. A financial planner has the ability to look at the big picture, understand each individual's goals and apply the best methods. They understand regional economic differences, for example real estate and business practices within a certain area, and offer specific advice that is appropriate for each client. They have the expertise to review all aspects of a family's plan and to direct clients to the best channels for financial success.

What Services are Provided by a Financial Planner

Identify and Establish Realistic Financial Goals: The first meeting with any financial planner involves a "getting to know you" session where all financial commitments and expectations are discussed. They will review both current financial obligations and a future wish list of where their client would like to be in the next ten, twenty or more years. Being able to discuss expectations with a professional makes it easier to set realistic goals and to understand what's needed to maintain a balanced lifestyle.

Identify and Set Retirement Goals: For most people, the working years allow little time for travel, recreation and leisure time. But just hoping to retire one day is not enough. Creating investment accounts, using vehicles such as a 401K or other savings plans will be analyzed with specific recommendations for each individual client.
Plan for a child's college education: The cost of college tuition continues to escalate and could be out of reach for many families without a preset plan. Or it may be a family's greatest desire to send a child to a private school for a better education. Even summer camp and sports activities require funds that need to be included in the family budget. A financial planner can look at the time table for each budget requirement and recommend ways to reach those special goals.

Create an alternative plan in the case of a job loss: No one wants to face the grim possibility of losing their job. Both a husband and wife who are working contribute greatly to the financial picture. An alternative action plan that allows a family to keep their home and not face devastation should be part of the financial planning objectives.

Monitor the investment strategy: One of the most critical tasks that financial planning entails is the monitoring and correcting of an investment strategy. Being able to make adjustments if needed in a timely manner and reducing significant expense are all part of a professional planner's job.
Although many financial planners are well versed in all areas of financial management, in some cases it makes sense to seek a specialist.

How Long Will it Take to See Results

Seeing actual gains or changes in a financial situation could depend on a number of factors but real results can be achieved within a reasonably short time. To be successful with a sound financial plan, carefully evaluated goals and objectives must be set with realistic expectations.

Evaluate current status: Initially a financial planner will look at current income, expenses and overall assets and discuss with the client future plans and objectives. The first meeting with a financial planner will involve reviewing both the current financial situation of the client and evaluating how they think they're doing. For example if financial obligations are barely being met it may be necessary to take immediate corrective action. Or if an increase in income, an inheritance or other financial gain is expected the first step could involve planning for that event.

Outline a Strategy: After reviewing the current status and solving any anticipated crisis, outlining a strategy for future planning is the next task. Typically financial planning services are designed for long term goals. Once a plan is in place, a yearly review of overall goals will ensure that the original plan is still a realistic approach. Any changes in family health or status, income levels, unexpected expenses or other issues should be communicated to the financial planner as soon as possible so that a new financial goal may be set.

Monitor Results: One of the primary benefits of contracting a financial planner includes the fact that they are working full time for their clients. Throughout the year they will continue to monitor progress, evaluate strategies and recommend adjustments wherever necessary. Their job depends on their clients' positive financial health and it may necessary to make changes depending on a number of factors.

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