When to Start My Financial Plan?

By Geoff Schaefer

Geoff is a Wealth Advisor with Intergy Private Wealth. He writes for The Steadfast Fiduciary to help people live with an abundant heart, open mind, and boundless generosity.

August 22, 2023

-Every twelve months, go to the doctor for an annual wellness exam. 

-Every six months, swing by the dentist’s office for a cleaning. 

-Every 10,000 miles, change your car’s oil. 

-Every 3 months, replace the air filter in your home. 

-Once a year, usually in April, file your taxes (or go to jail).

Everyone has this list plus a hundred other things to keep track of, and to be honest, most of us fall behind.  Apologies to my dentist if you’re reading this, I’ll be in soon… maybe…

In the midst of all this, picking up kids from school, cooking dinner, maybe hanging out with friends, traveling to see family, and perhaps even sleeping… where do we put a financial plan?

Financial planning is important. In fact, studies suggest that households with a financial plan are happier and report less stress about money than those without. A good financial plan shows you accurately where you are at.  A map if you will.  A financial planner helps you determine the best course of action to get you from where you are to your desired future state.  Call it a guide.  Both are needed to navigate the terrain and circumstances that are to come. A guide has one thing in mind- point A to point B.  The valleys, draws, thickets and rivers that come up are simply considerations for the one thing.

Here is the problem, there is no set point to start a financial plan.  There is no set annual date with the penalty of fines for not following through.  There is no set age or life status or net worth that triggers the need or desire for a plan. In my experience, the best time to start a financial plan, is when you ask the question.  The question itself is the trigger to start the process of planning.

There are a couple reasons why people do not follow through with that.  The most common one is the misunderstanding of what a plan is. A financial plan is not an investment strategy.  It is not a debt repayment plan. It is not purchasing life and disability insurance. It is not calculating the taxes you owe.  It is none of those things individually, yet it includes all of them.  How can you get to where you want to go, given where you are now while keeping in line with your unique values and perspective?

Could you be a young professional, a year out of college and have a financial plan? Yes!  Could you be selling your business or on the verge of retirement and have a financial plan? Yes!  The answer likely is always, yes. Now, the college grad may focus more on securing disability insurance, paying down debt, saving for a home down payment and opening a retirement account.  And perhaps their plan can be put into motion and require little change for years to come. The retiree may focus more on medical insurance planning, asset allocation, taxes and risk management. Meeting quarterly might not be out of the question and changes may be frequent.

Both the college grad and retiree are actively participating in planning. So when should you find a map for your financial life and connect with a guide to assist you in navigating it? As soon as the question pops in your head.

After the trip to the dentist, you are usually left with one of two outcomes. First, you have a cavity or two and have a follow up meeting scheduled to take care of them.  The other option is that you get a nice cleaning, and all is well.  Turns out dad was right about flossing after all.  No matter the outcome, you have a clear path forward and a peace of mind that nothing is getting missed.  Your dental health is well in hand.

After you review your financial plan, you’ll have the same outcomes.  All is well and you have navigated the past months or years well, maybe had some good fortune too. Or maybe you have a couple things to work on.  You’ve overspent, under saved, neglected a glaring risk or simply have too much cash in your checking account. You do not build up to a point where you feel comfortable engaging in financial planning.  Financial planning is what builds you up to continue living life. Going back to the dentist one more time.  If you knew you had a cavity, you would not give it another six weeks of using extra mouth wash, hoping the cavity would subside before visiting the dentist.  Go, get your filling, and follow the dentist’s instructions on how to do better from here.

A map gives you a great idea of where to go and how to get from point A to point B.  The terrain will look different when you actually start your trek. That’s where a guide comes into play.  If you are reading this, create a map and partner with a trusted guide. Start your trek, and go see your dentist.

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