The holiday season is upon us. For most families, this is a time to give thanks, bask in the joys of loved ones and hope to retain your sanity. Let’s face it – the holidays can be very hectic. During the holidays, most of us will find a few quiet moments at some point when we get a chance to reflect on the past year and dream about the year to come.
A time to reflect can also be a time to assess where you are now versus where you want to be. But for most people, it’s difficult to think through all of the different areas in their financial lives that might impact their goals.
Most of my clients are successful professional people with two common attributes. They are time-starved and they have complex financial lives that can be difficult to get their arms around. So in the generous spirit of the holiday season, here is a free gift. This guide will help you evaluate your financial readiness for the year ahead across six key areas.
In my experience, wise decisions in the six areas below make the difference between achieving goals and missing the mark. While you may need to focus time and effort on one or two areas more than some others, these six areas are critical to protecting and growing wealth.
When is the last time your estate plan was reviewed by a professional? How has your personal situation changed since your estate plan was last updated? What changes should be made to reflect your current situation? Are you completely comfortable with your estate plan or do you have some work to do in this area?
Your investment portfolio
When did you last review your overall asset allocation plan? Different people have different kinds of plans:
- Brokerage accounts
- Education plans
- Employer plans, such as 401k, deferred compensation plans and stock option plans
- IRA plans
- Pre-tax versus after-tax plans
Are your investments on track with your goals for:
- Mitigating income taxes?
- College or other education funding?
- Cash-flow generation?
When did you last sit down with a professional to review your investment plan and ensure your investments are helping you move toward your goals? Are your investments ready for the year ahead or should you be making changes? How significant are those changes?
Are you on track for your retirement date? Are you on track to attain your desired retirement lifestyle based on your current and projected income versus your annual expenses? Do you realize that most people these days plan to be in retirement for 25-30 years? Are you taking all of the necessary steps to ensure you are ready for retirement?
Do you have your emergency savings account fully funded to support an extended loss of income? In my experience, this is one area that affluent families tend to underestimate. Since mortgages are the single biggest expense for most families, ask yourself if your mortgage rates are competitive compared to current loan rates?
Are there other potential sources of expense reduction you should be considering that will not negatively impact your quality of life? What simple and logical steps could you take to increase your cash-flow? How many of those steps have you taken.
When did you last review all of your insurance products and compare this against your risk? This is another area that affluent families often overlook. There are so many types of insurance to consider - life, auto, health, disability, property and even more. Are you missing opportunities to take advantage of umbrella policies? Are you paying too much or too little for insurance? Are you underinsured or over-insured?
Have you taken all steps possible to mitigate income taxes? Are there strategies available to you that you have not yet taken advantage of? Are your CPA and your financial advisor in regular contact or do they only speak once each year or not at all? Are your investments optimized to mitigate taxes? Are your charitable gifts delivering as much impact as you would like while still providing you tax benefits?
Looking to the future
Sometimes it can be overwhelming to look at all of these areas and assess where you really are and what steps you should take next. If you are struggling to go it alone, I’d appreciate the opportunity to have a conversation about your financial future and how my personal CFO services can really make a difference to your peace of mind.
You should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this article serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized financial planning and/or personalized investment advice from Whitnell & Co. To the extent that the reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his or her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional adviser of his/her choosing.
Any hypothetical examples included in this article are for illustrative purposes only. No representation is being made that any account, product, or strategy will or is likely to achieve profits, losses, or results similar to those shown.