The leaves are changing, and we find ourselves changing as well. Depending on where you are in the country, you may be draining the pool or storing the patio furniture, or even harvesting the year’s crops. Whatever form it takes in your life, the cool weather causes us to slow down, take stock, and see where the summer left everything.
It’s no surprise then, that October is National Financial Planning month. This can be a great time for a meeting with your financial planner, especially if you only meet a few times a year. Let’s look at a few financial fitness items to discuss with your financial planner and to keep in mind as the leaves fall outside.
A Written Financial Plan
Most professional environments, especially in the digital age, run on the principle that if it isn’t written down, it won’t happen. Financial planning can be the same way. Written goals have a certain substance to them that simple aspirations or hopes don’t provide.
Dr. Gail Matthews, an expert on goal-setting, found that we are 42% more likely to accomplish our goals when we write them down regularly. Working these goals out with a financial planner can help you arrive at a custom-made plan, based on your values, and tailored to your style. Questions such as projected retirement age, reviewing your portfolio, and kids’ inheritances would be a great place to start.
A Lifestyle of Financial Wisdom
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit,” said American philosopher Will Durant. Excellence – in finance, sports, even marriage – is a virtue created with time and practice, not a gift that comes from nowhere.
Practices such as carefully watching and researching the market, reading up on financial news, and planning for smaller financial goals, can help you prepare for larger life events. Living within your means, spending less than you earn – these tidbits of advice are classic for a reason.
In finance, especially with more complex portfolios or estates, we come across what financial great Michael Kitces calls “hyper-complex” problems. These are the issues that are too complex for simply the voice of experience or technological know-how, but must use a blend of these to figure out.
Kitces writes: “For example, whether it’s heart surgery or flying an airplane, it’s not enough to have someone with ‘just’ good book knowledge, or someone with ‘just’ experience but no knowledge of the underlying systems and structures; ultimately, you need someone with both, and a feedback system to know how you’re progressing towards a not-entirely-knowable future.” Knowledge and experience are the two sides of a bridge in this case, and it falls without one or the other in place.
Developing a relationship in which you collaborate with your financial advisor to formulate a comprehensive plan – where you solve such hyper-complex problems together – is part of practicing a lifestyle of financial wisdom. Such wisdom gives you insight into how to watch the market yourself, but also when to call a professional.
No Minimum Age to Start
With different generations comes different cultures and emphases. For instance, Gen X-er and Millennial investors may be more concerned with socially-responsible investing. Not supporting fracking or “sweatshop” conditions may be just as important to them as making money.
The encouraging reality behind this trend in investing is that there are indeed younger people seeing the need for financial literacy. Though the financial planning discussion often involves retirement and legacy planning – concerns relegated to the last third of life – healthy financial habits need to start in the first third.
Developing a culture of financial awareness, not just checking your statement every quarter, is what makes a spender/saver into an investor. It may start in your thirties with the decision of rather to rent or buy a place to live. It goes on into your sixties with the decision of whether to take Social Security or wait. Your finances are one journey, and where you start affects how you finish.
Winter will Come, All We can Do is Prepare
The trees are eventually bare and the grass is brittle, the world is waiting for snow and cold. Winter is inevitable, preparation is always possible, and National Financial Planning Month is a good time to start. Getting yourself in financial shape – cultivating good habits, meeting with your financial advisor regularly – is a way to prepare for every financial season to come.
Your financial advisor is available to meet with you to help you prepare during this National Financial Planning Month. Whether it’s re-evaluating your portfolio or simply checking to see where everything is, scheduling an appointment today will help you tomorrow.