When your research on the internet is either failing you or creating more questions than it answers, when you start to question whether you’re doing your planning “right,” when you start to wonder whether the diversification-buy-and-hold belief in investing is a good idea or if there’s a better one, or when your intuition tells you to get a second opinion.
- This “right time” often happens to people in their 40s and 50s, who have been saving money (even if it’s just in their 401(k)s), have stayed out of debt, and now see retirement and/or college education on the horizon and want to make sure they’re on track. Sometimes they’re concerned about another market “correction” and are wondering if there might be a better way to invest. This describes the majority of our clients.
- This “right time” also often occurs for people in their 20s and 30s who are making more money than they have ever have, may be starting a family and “don’t want to screw it up.” They may not have received any financial education growing up, or they don’t want to repeat the financial experiences of their parents.
- For people on the verge of retirement or in early retirement, this may occur due to disability, the ending of previous relationship with a financial planner, a strong desire not to continue on one’s own, or the need for a second opinion.
Choosing a financial planner, especially for the first time, is a big decision. Not something anyone should rush into. For that reason, the process for becoming a Lanning Financial client is purposely calm and thoughtful.
Our first step is a complimentary 15-minute phone call. I want to hear more about you and together we will explore whether I can be of service to you. By the end of the call, we will both decide if it makes sense for us to continue talking.
If so, we will set up a 45-minute meeting to speak in more detail about your goals. This follow-up appointment is also complimentary. It will be an opportunity for us to determine whether we can form a solid working relationship. Provided that is the case, we can discuss next steps and move forward from there.
Early and often. This “wins the race” almost every time. It’s never about how much money you make, but about how much money you save. But save it where? I have four strong guidelines when I look at someone’s investments.
- I view money as a tool that serves a purpose in one’s financial plan and it should be invested accordingly, given a client’s goals, time horizon and tolerance for losing money. I encourage clients to invest in what interests them, whether that’s real estate, socially conscious investing, or in the markets (stocks, bonds, commodities, etc.). In my experience, people pay attention to what interests them and therefore those investments tend to perform better. I do not believe there is one “right” way to grow assets and build wealth, but it’s my job to point out the potential pitfalls, be the voice of reason and temperance, and make sure your investments are aligned with your goals, needs and wants.
- I make sure my clients pay attention to their potential tax bill in retirement and plan accordingly. There are strategies to create tax-free income in retirement regardless of income or access to a Roth 401(k), and I believe my clients between the ages of 25 and 60 need to consider whether these would work in their plan.
- I believe in flexibility and options. Creating a financial plan is a great first step, but it’s not about the plan, it’s about plannING. Life happens. Things change. Mid-flight corrections are necessary. I see clients load money in 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457s, SEP-IRAs, IRAs, 529 plans, etc., without taking into account that the money is now “imprisoned” until they reach a certain age or unless they spend it on something. The taxes and penalties from releasing that money early or for other purposes can be significant and are avoidable with good planning.
- When it comes to your stocks/bonds portfolio, diversify your investments not only by type and geography, but by philosophy. In today’s investing world, you do not have to buy into one person’s strategy or philosophy. You can choose several among many. This gives you diversification of perspective and strategy. All your eggs are not in one philosophical basket, and we can work together to determine which strategists to hire and which to fire, with the goal of better returns with less risk. We are not providing guarantees here. Our clients can and do lose money investing. Our goal is to minimize that downside.
I am a member of the Estate Planning Team, which specializes in helping clients continue to defer the capital gains on their highly appreciated assets (businesses, real estate, art work, etc.) without doing a 1031 exchange. To learn more, click here.
For money we place on our wealth management platform, we are fee-based and charge a percentage of assets (for example, 1% of assets). We make no commissions on those investments. We may recommend products that pay a commission to us or someone else. We disclose all of our compensation before you purchase anything so you can determine the value.
As a side note: “Commission” has become a bad word in the financial planning industry, but you should not be afraid of it. We only suggest these products for you because we believe they are in your best interests, our vendors won’t provide them without paying commission (we’ve asked) and we believe it would border on irresponsible to not recommend commissionable products simply because of their commissionable nature.
Case in point: We will likely have a conversation with you about disability insurance, long-term care insurance or life insurance. Those are commissionable products. Perhaps counterintuitively, they save you money. When you work with us, we will explain it to you so that you understand what you’re buying and what you’re paying.
You may have read on the internet about not needing to pay a professional to manage your money, and I don’t disagree with this. You can choose index funds or follow your favorite internet advisor’s advice and potentially do fine. From my experience, however, how clients are invested is not in alignment with who they are, and this leads to much discontent among investors who do not get professional advice.
My clients work with me do so because they want a “family CFO.” These are smart people who are very good at what they do professionally and care deeply about their families and their financial well-being. They want someone to keep an eye on the ball, make sure their money is managed well, make sure they are paying attention to all those things that preserve their financial well-being. They want someone that will give them quarterly updates and will meet with them at least once a year to review their planning.
They are not paying just to have their money managed. They are paying to have a relationship with someone who will care as much as about their financial well-being as they do and assist them in reaching their goals. I don’t believe any planner can make a decision about how to invest your money without knowing who you are and what you want that money to do, and that requires putting a plan together that dictates what that money needs to do.
I don’t do budgeting, bailouts or bad attitudes. Here’s what I mean by that.
- Budgeting: I can tell you how much you need to save to meet a financial goal (retirement, education, etc.), but you have to figure out where that money will come from. I am not going to tell you how much to spend at Macy’s, for example. If that is what you need, I am happy to refer you to a financial counselor who specializes in helping people create and stay accountable to a spending plan. It’s a different skill set, and those folks are great at it.
- Bailouts: If you chronically rack up credit card debt, have debt that is overwhelming your budget or own property that is “underwater,” I am not your planner. You need someone who can help you get your head above water. I can refer you to another professional who I think will be best able to help you.
- Bad attitudes: First, I like working with nice people who treat people decently and use good manners. Second, even if you are nice but you think the world is coming to an end and you should be investing in gold bullion, I am not your planner. I would instead tell you to buy canned goods. That way if the world does come to an end, you can at least eat.
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