While Google has empowered so many of us to take on activities and tasks that we may not have 25 years ago (like self-diagnosing medical ailments and do-it-yourself projects), I think we can all agree that there is still a time and a place for working with an expert. And financial planning is one of those areas where working with an expert, as opposed to trying to get ahead yourself, is the surefire way to go.
The Financial Planner Advantage
“Financial planning is an ongoing process that helps people make intentional decisions based on what we know today,” Tim Fox, WealthCo’s Vice President of Sales, explains. “Regardless of your financial situation or level of complexity, working with a qualified financial planner can have tremendous value.”
Financial Planners Can Help You to Understand Your Goals
Goal-setting is a must-do for success in the business world. The same applies to your personal and financial life. Winging it is fine and dandy for a date night or a weekend getaway; winging it is not fine and dandy when it comes to the current and future financial security for yourself and your family.
Sophie Blais, WealthCo’s President and Chief Operations Officer, was a financial planner for many years and understands that there are both head and heart decisions when it comes to building a financial plan with clients.
“Everyone’s WHY is so different,” Blais points out. “Financial planning has never been one size fits all. It’s important to understand what matters most in order to be able to focus on financial goals.”
There is such a wide range of financial goals that an individual might have. A goal could be to retire at the age of 60. A goal could be to pay off a high interest loan. A goal could be to remodel your home. A financial planner will work with you to identify these goals, which is step one in ultimately achieving them.
Financial Planners are Well-Trained
The Certified Financial Planner™ designation is the most widely recognized financial planning designation in Canada and is given to professionals who have demonstrated the knowledge, skills, experience, and ethics to examine their clients’ entire financial picture at the highest level of complexity required of the profession.
“The CFP designation deems the planner competent in a broad number of financial topics,” Fox explains. “These topics include investments, insurance, retirement planning, estate planning, and taxation. While a specific advisor may have expertise in one of these areas, you can be confident a Certified Financial Planner™ has knowledge in all of them.”
Just this week, the Financial Professionals Title Act has been proclaimed into force. This piece of legislation will create minimum standards for those who use the title of financial planner so that consumers can rest easy knowing that anyone using that title has a minimum standard of education and ethics. A great move that will help to further protect those seeking financial planning support from planners who may be less than qualified.
Financial Planners will Provide You With a Road Map
With your financial and life goals now top of mind, your financial planner can help you to map out how to get there.
“Feeling financially secure can benefit you more than you realize,” Fox states. “Once you have set goals for yourself, you need a real plan that can get you there. A good plan will clearly articulate what needs to happen for you to achieve your desired goals.”
Best Timing for Working with a Financial Planner
So, when is the right time, or life stage, to start working with a financial planner?
“While it’s never too late to turn for help when it comes to your financial affairs, the sooner you get your finances in order, the better,” Fox shares. “There is a widely held misconception that getting access to advice requires a certain amount of assets. While some planners do have set minimums, there are plenty of professionals who are able to work with all types of different situations. The key is to find the right fit. In some cases, working with a planner may be triggered by a life event, like a new job or change in health. It’s always a good idea to have a financial planning professional help you to navigate some of life’s twists and turns.”
Selecting the Right Financial Planner
“Not all advisors and planners are created equally,” Fox points out. “Differences may include their level of experience, the resources they have available at their disposal, whether they have support staff, designations held, and, of course, what their fee structure looks like.”
A good first step is to look for a planner with that trusty CFP designation. This designation is structured in such a way that planners have demonstrated competency in a broad range of financial topics, including investments, insurance, retirement planning, estate planning, and taxation.
“Make sure you take the time to interview several planners,” Fox suggests. “It’s important that you are confident in the team you trust to design, implement, and review your financial plan.”
Fox advises asking the following questions of prospective financial planners:
- What credentials do you hold? In addition to the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and CFP designations, there are several others that bring heightened credibility to their holders, including Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
- How often will we communicate? The right financial planner will be proactive in contacting you to ensure you are on top of your plan while also being available to you as needed to discuss any questions or concerns
- What is included in your financial planning services? Their level of service and expertise will vary from financial planner to financial planner, so it’s important to understand what’s included
- How often will my financial plan be updated? Your financial plan is a ‘living document’ and as such should be regularly revisited to reflect changes in your personal situation
“Life will undoubtedly get in the way of even the best laid plans so working with a professional that is able to adjust the plan will not only make sense, but ensure you stay on track,” Fox reinforces. “True value is created when you change the plan, not when you create it.”
It’s never too early, or too late, to get your financial house in order by working with a financial planner. In need of a financial planner? Your accountant will be able to connect you with the right resources and keeping your accountant in the loop will ensure that all parties are aligned in delivering you the best possible integrated financial experience.