The most important – yet often missed – step of having a financial plan created is implementing the plan. One of the top reasons is that life gets in the way, and managing every aspect of one’s finances takes time. Having a financial advisor that makes sure you implement the steps laid out in your plan is one of the best ways to make sure the items get completed. Should you choose to implement everything on your own without the help of a comprehensive financial advisor, there are ten core areas you will need to monitor. These core areas are:
- Net worth
- Income tax planning
- Insurance planning
- Estate distribution
- Investment performance
- Investment allocation
- Account contributions or withdrawals
The work needed in each of these areas is explained briefly below along with how often each should be completed.
Expenses – Track your spending and compare how you are doing versus the target amounts set in your plan. This is one of the most important steps in implementing your plan because it is where you have both the most control and the most impact on your financial situation. Reviewing this regularly, provides great feedback if your spending is in line with your values.
Income – Compare your income against plan targets to see if it is on track. Earning more or less than planned may mean you need to adjust your savings or spending amounts accordingly.
Debts – Follow the targets in your plan for the optimal amount to pay toward any debts you may have. Monitor interest rates to evaluate if a better option might be available, such as refinancing or making additional payments.
Investment Performance – Regularly review your investment performance compared to an appropriate index and compare targeted account balances vs. actual account balances.
Investment Allocations – Determine appropriate asset allocation ranges for stocks, bonds, and cash in your plan, and review your investment portfolio regularly. Implement the investment strategy that works best for your situation and rebalance assets when needed – not when your emotions are telling you to. Allocation ranges in your plan should be chosen based on analysis of your risk capacity and risk tolerance. As life changes, the appropriate investment allocations will change, so it will need to be updated periodically.
Account Contributions & Withdrawals – Review, calculate and adjust contributions and distributions from investment and savings accounts to stay close to targeted amounts set in plan. Check things like Roth IRA contributions, 401(k) contribution rates, or IRA distributions throughout the year.
Net Worth – Net worth is the value of your assets minus your debts. A healthy financial plan is typically one in which the net worth is increasing during your accumulation years and then gradually decreasing in retirement.
Income Tax Planning – Review your income tax scenario prior to year-end to take advantage of tax efficiencies and cost savings (deductions not being utilized, taking advantage of tax-deferred accounts, Roth conversions, maximizing your tax bracket, etc.).
Insurance Planning – Your plan should identify areas where current insurance amounts are over or under insured. Review annually to see if your coverage is still sufficient as life changes. This includes all insurance types (life, disability, property, long-term care, umbrella, and more) for any potential changes that may be needed.
Estate Distribution – Review and update estate documents and beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and life insurance policies to assure that assets are structured the way you want them to transition after death.
For Some, Having Help Matters
If you don’t have the time, interest or knowledge to adequately monitor your plan, this is where having help matters. Hiring a professional assures not only that recommendations from your plan are completed, but you can rest assured that you will have a regular review process to take advantage of opportunities that arise as life changes and limit big mistakes. This allows you to spend time on your highest value activities, while providing peace of mind around your financial journey.