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Is it time to Re-evaluate your Financial Plan?

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
February 14, 2022
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Re-evaluating your plan and re-evaluating your opportunities is really important. According to Northwestern's 2020 Planning and progress study, 71% of Americans feel their financial plan could use some improvement. So maybe you have a plan, but you're saying, “Maybe I can use some improvement”. At Trilogy Financial we look at the work that's been done in the past. Remember that we're not judging what was done in the past, but we'll look at that and say, is there any way that we can make improvements upon what's been done in the past to help you plan for the future. Understanding that is really important. A plan is not static, it's a living, breathing document, and you want to make sure that you're updating and reevaluating your opportunities on a regular basis.

Another thing to think about is interest rates is we don't know what's going to be in the future. I think this is an interesting one as well. Many Americans for 2020 stayed at home a lot and a lot of them spent less money. Matter of fact, Northwestern Mutual did a study for 2020 on average, people say it's about 10% more money in their personal savings than they did in 2019. Well, why didn't they spend? Some of it was lifestyle – they didn't go out to dinner as much; they didn't go on their vacations- there’s a lot of things that were held back due to all the craziness that had gone on. But there were people that spent on home improvements in other areas as well. People were spending more on their houses because they were living in their houses more. There's a lot of people that saved more or in that period. You might want to evaluate what to do with that savings. Maybe that's the first step in building out a financial plan. Maybe that's the money that should be put towards the college plan. Maybe that's the money that should be put towards lowering your debt overall. Maybe that's money that you should use to increase your path to financial independence. Re-evaluating your opportunities, your long-term financial plan.

I would highly encourage you to re-evaluate those opportunities again. At Trilogy Financial, we do that all the time. We look at current plans and make sure they make sense. Then when you have extra money that's saved, we look at is it working hard for you and is it working hard for your financial why. Maybe you're in a place where you can refinance. Saving money, and refinancing is another really good tool to help create more cash flow and help you get on that path to financial independence.

I'm big on this thing called Financial date nights. Earlier, I talked about the fact that people argue about money, financial date nights once a month, get out of the house, go do something different. I've had people do financial date drives that live in big cities – go have a cup of coffee, have dinner, whatever it is. Get out of the house and talk about your financial whys, talk about your planning, and talk about your goals. Don't argue about them. This is an opportunity for big picture, global type discussions within the couple and then work through those things. And when you need help and more clarity, that's where a financial advisor can really jump in and help you jump-start whatever is going on in your financial plan.

Another thing is to be flexible and willing to adapt. I said this earlier but good financial plans are living breathing documents. In regard to this, all of our clients at Trilogy Financial have their own portal. Inside that financial portal is their financial plan that updates on a regular basis. We can put paperwork in there or documents in there and it's something that's living and breathing. You may need to be flexible with what's going on in your world. Timeframes constantly are getting adjusted. We've had people come in and say, “You know what? I'm thinking about retiring early” or “My companies offering me an early retirement package.”, or “I have to work a little bit longer” for whatever reason. That's just something you update in the plan. College scenarios too. Some kids are deferring going to college and I don't blame them. You didn't pay for online college, and you may want the experience. If that’s the case, you’d go in a different direction. Whatever those things are, be willing, flexible, and adjustable and in communication with your spouse, your partner, or business partner.

Meet and talk with your financial advisor regularly. They should be asking you those questions and they will be updating you on the markets and current events. what I would say are the unknowns or the instability side. The other thing about having that advisor is that joyful accountability. Have an advisor, have a coach, have a financial team – they'll help you stay accountable to do what you say. They're not going to be bugging you, they're going to be reminding you of the good things that you've said during those planning discussions. They're going to be reminding you where you are and they're also going to be praising you when you're doing what you said you were going to do. And when you do that, you make great progress, and when you make great progress, then the plan progresses year after year after year.

How much closer are we to financial independence, that's the conversations that happen over time. So, take action on what you can do, be in control of your knowns, and plan for the unknowns. Again, insurance is a great thing for that. Work with your advisor on the unknown, so you have less anxiety. Be flexible and will be willing to adapt and remember the financial planning documents and plans are living, breathing documents. Life happens, life events happen, and you've got to plan for those things. If you're not working with a trust or a financial advisor investment fiduciary, look to find one that can help you build your own personal plan.

 

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By
Mark Nicolet, CFP®, MBA, ABFP™
May 21, 2018

Your first thought, spend it! But how? Is it the house project you and your spouse have been discussing for the last several months? Should you pay down your credit card balance? Go on a trip? Wait, you’re excited about the refund, but in retrospect you should have adjusted your allowances so that you didn’t give the government an interest free loan over the course of the last twelve months. With that said, should you fire your accountant? Well, it’s too late now. Take a moment, and think through the best use of this money? What are your short-term priorities? How do those priorities align or even conflict with other priorities that are further down the road? Should the refund have just one focus?

Let’s first sort through what we need to consider. Is this refund enough to actually complete the house project or will you actually have to put the remaining balance of the project on a credit card? Do you have your three to six months of savings in your emergency fund? What are the interest rates of your current credit cards? What is the current state of the market? Are you comfortable with market risk if you were to invest your refund? How secure is your current career? How variable is your current income? These are significant questions and require more diligence than, quickly hiring the contractor to install heated floors in that master bathroom. Give some intentional thought to this prior to your refund arriving in your bank account. Meet with a Certified Financial Planner to not only consult about what to do with your tax refund, but also your current planning situation and existing investment accounts and risk management plan.

Prior to the receipt of your tax refund, create a pie chart, sort through your most important priorities and time frames, then allocate accordingly, without heavily weighting one priority over the next. Make your refund go further. Start with savings, then, make a larger credit card payment than the monthly minimum if a balance exists, assuming the interest is in the teens. Tuck a portion into the stock market. If you anticipate needing or wanting the money prior to retirement, establish or contribute a portion of the refund to a non-retirement investment account. Only after taking these steps should you allocate funds to a home project. Why? You have now considered long-term planning first, then addressed short term priorities. Life happens, homes need upgrades, and travel is always an option. These plans will ALWAYS be available and present. Retirement and long-term planning will not happen, if you don’t plan now. Meet with a Certified Financial Planner to sort through what to do with your tax refund. Finally, discuss this with your CPA in preparation for next year’s taxes to sort through how you can limit the refund and have more cash available over the course of the year.

By
Zach Swaffer, CFP®
May 9, 2019

Whenever new technology enters the world there are two inevitable emotions: excitement and fear. The thrill of new possibilities tempered by fears of new tech failing to live up to the hype. Take, for example: Robo-advisors. A great example of the complexities surrounding emerging tech, Robo-advisors provide automated digital financial advice based upon algorithms and/or mathematical rules.

When Robo-advisors launched in 2008 they were heralded as the dawn of a new era in financial planning. Some experts even believed this advancement signaled the end of financial planning (and real, human financial planners) as we know it. Not so. Over a decade later Robo-advisors are still around; however, they have failed to take over the financial planning world as predicted and in fact many are shuttering their doors or seriously scaling back on size.

So what happened? Why did Robo-advisors fail to eliminate the role of humans in the financial planning process? At the end of the day, it comes down to human connection. While an algorithm can crunch numbers, make predictions, and even offer investment advice, it cannot form impactful and lasting relationships like a real human. Investment selection and management is a part of what financial planners do – but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Real, effective financial planners are there to prepare you for and coach you through life’s unexpected inevitables. What happens when some life event inevitably occurs or you have a pressing question about your financial plan and when you try to get an answer you reach an automated phone tree that leads nowhere? Unlike a Robo-advisor, a financial planner is a real human available to provide advice and support when you need it. Think of them like a coach for your finances!

True, a human financial planner may cost more than a Robo-advisor. But in return they provide much more value. A study conducted by Vanguard found that working with a financial planner can add about 3% to client returns with 1.50% of that coming from behavioral coaching (that’s half the value coming from coaching alone!). When you start working with a planner you are not simply hiring an investment manager. Instead, you are partnering with someone who will work with you as life evolves to achieve your unique priorities. As you progress along your financial journey you form a trusting relationship with your advisor, so whenever you have questions or concerns you know there is a real human you trust who will answer the phone and provide clarity for you.

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