When I first began my career as a financial advisor working in a national brokerage firm one of the first tools I learned to use was a software program for “financial planning”.  I collected answers to a defined series of questions which I then loaded into the program.  What came back was impressive, because it used a lot of paper.  The plan was somewhat beneficial, to the financial advisor, because the plan was basically a list of products that the client needed to buy.  The benefit of financial planning was very clear to financial advisors who quite often referred to themselves as planners.

A few years later I met a real, Certified Financial Planner®, or CFP®.  I will confess to being embarrassed that I had been claiming to provide my clients with financial planning.  I wasn’t even close.

Comprehensive financial planning is not about selling products.  It’s not about gathering assets from clients.  It is about conversations that help the CFP® come to know the clients.  To understand how the clients came to be where they are and where it is they wish to go.  It is about developing a strategy that fits the needs of the client.  It’s work.  But once it’s in place it is much easier to sleep at night.

Comprehensive financial planning is also not a document that is thrown in the drawer and forgotten.  It’s ongoing.  It’s inflight missile maintenance.

A comprehensive financial plan should guide the client to a wealth plan overview,  executed estate planning documents, a complete insurance review, retirement planning, tax planning, education expense planning, a detailed spending plan, a detailed net worth statement and an investment strategy designed around meeting the return needed to support the client’s goals.

Wow!  That is a lot of work.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes.  “Don’t let the memories of past difficulties dictate your future.”

-Fred Lee