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For a Successful Financial Plan

On the surface, the cost of a financial plan is simple: generally between $2,000 and $4,000, depending on its complexity and where you live.

But dig deeper and you’ll find that the plan’s success also depends on you spending time to implement it.

Consider the case of a young physician who recently came to my office inquiring about a financial plan. His primary issues were cash flow with tax considerations, debt service and investment advice. I suggested he would also need an insurance review and estate planning, since he had none. At the conclusion of our getting-acquainted meeting, my colleagues and I quoted a fee for the financial plan and what it would include. He decided to work with us.

Next we had a goal-setting meeting and collected his pertinent financial documents such as his tax return, investment statements, debt statements and more. We provided risk-tolerance questions and discussed his short- and long-term goals in greater detail. Then there was an interim meeting where we reviewed his goals — to be sure we prioritized them correctly — his risk-tolerance results and his investment analysis.

A couple of weeks later, we had a plan-delivery meeting, where we reviewed the recommendations in all the areas of his financial plan. He took the binder home to review and start implementing the plan.

He returned in a month for a progress meeting. He had made some headway on our list of recommendations, but not as much as I had hoped for. At the conclusion of that meeting he told me: “You were very clear as to what the plan would cost me in dollars. What I did not know was the time it would take me to collect the information on which the plan is based, to meet with you, to read and study your recommendations and then to finally implement them.”

He was correct: It costs both time and money to enact a financial plan that will really help you. Eight months later, I received an email from the doctor, letting me know he’d completed all the recommendations. In the end he said the total cost, in terms of dollars and time, was well worth it.

Beware of additional costs

Keep in mind that with some financial service providers, there could be huge additional costs in the form of fees or commissions. This could also be a conflict of interest if your advisor recommends products that pay him more, rather than the ones that are best for you. So be sure you know exactly what fees are involved when you start working with an advisor.

While my recommendations in the doctor’s plan included specific changes to his insurance and investment holdings, I did not sell him any of the coverage plans that I recommended, nor did I sell him the investment products he needed. That’s because I am a fee-only advisor. I want my clients to know that I have no vested interest in the implementation of the insurance or investment part of the plan.

This is not the case for advisors who provide both a plan for a fee and then sell you the investments or insurance products as well. All too often, the insurance recommendations made by those who sell the products, too, include more and larger policies than what I would recommend. It is a sad fact that the commission may be driving the plan recommendations, rather than what is best for the client.

When you are looking for a financial plan, be sure that you use the services of a Certified Financial Planner and that the planner does not sell any products. To find such an advisor near you, contact Garrett Planning Network or the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.