A comprehensive financial advisory engagement often delivers significant value. Distinguishing between the initial plan and “on-going” planning is worthwhile. This blog describes the two types of planning and whether and when they are most valuable.
An initial plan ought to be a comprehensive assessment of an individual’s goals, resources, and a summary of the practices required to meet those goals. At the end of this engagement, the client should have the knowledge and means to implement the action steps. In our view, when an advisor implements the plan for you, is typically where the exercise drifts from professional counsel to a concierge service – from something you probably can’t do to something you can do, but prefer not to.
Helping clients set strategic goals and equipping them to implement our recommendations is our highest value add in planning. As major details in a person’s life change, it is important to consider whether basic goals have also changed. The death of a spouse, for example, likely means that future goals have also changed dramatically. It could make sense at these junctures to enter another initial, comprehensive planning engagement.
Plans need time to work. Sound strategic plans realize their value over time through disciplined implementation. Paying for annual, on-going planning may feel like a need, but its actual value-to-cost relationship may be limited.
When is on-going planning valuable? Apart from major life changes, the most likely reason we see for annual on-going planning relates to income taxes. This is particularly true for individuals with significant percentages of variable income, or who own complex and inter-related business entities, or make large charitable gifts. As a consumer, be mindful that formal recommendations regarding income tax strategies should come from an attorney or CPA. It’s our practice to suggest possible strategies, and refer clients back to their CPA or attorney for more specific recommendations.
An initial comprehensive financial plan can be valuable if you’re unsure about how best to accomplish your financial goals, or even how to develop them. Beyond that, you might also choose to pay for an on-going planning service, which typically is like outsourcing financial organizing. Just be mindful of the actual value received for the fees you pay.