In this section, we link you to an application that walks you through a financial planning session. You start by specifying your goals. The tool then helps you develop good insight into your financial life, including your current net worth (assets – debts) and your budget (income – expenses). To save you time here, you can have your financial information downloaded automatically from your accounts, wherever they are held. When you are done with your inputs, we provide you with a plan to save and invest to meet all your goals.
For access to the planning application simply send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name. We will then send you an e-mail with a link that will allow you to log in to the application. The tool is intuitive, but our e-mail will include detailed instructions to help you through the process, including tips on how to input data and account for common scenarios (downsizing your house around retirement and investing the net proceeds, as an example). Once you’ve completed all the steps, we will check your inputs and create your financial plan. We will send you a link to review this plan. All this for free and without obligation. And if you’d like to remain anonymous, send us an alias for your name.
The most important elements you will need to input during the planning session are:
- Specifying your financial goals—retirement most importantly—and the timeframe for each
- Identifying your assets and liabilities
- Setting your budget: income – expenses = savings
Early in the application, you can link your financial accounts, no matter where they are held, using a secure third-party “account aggregation” firm. This greatly reduces the time and effort required for you to input all your financial information (bullets two and three above). And it helps provide you with a true picture of your current net worth (assets – liabilities) and your cash flow (income – outflows), which can be a great starting point as you form your budget.
Note that this planning tool strikes a nice balance between simplicity and comprehensiveness. It is streamlined, but with enough features and flexibility to meet the needs of the vast majority of people. However, our firm has the capability to serve clients with the most sophisticated planning needs. If you have a more complex situation—tax, insurance, stock-based compensation, etc—we will work with you in a highly customized and interactive way to gather and input your information and formulate your plan, using the most detailed financial planning platform available. To start the process, simply call or e-mail us at email@example.com.
Quick and Dirty versus Full Monty approaches to planning
A word on how to think about any financial planning exercise. When financial service providers advertise with catch phrases like “what’s your number?”, they are sending the wrong message. In reality, they should emphasize the imprecise nature of planning figures. Planning is of course by its nature forward looking, and, as always, the future is uncertain. We must all remember that forecasts in a plan are estimates. For example, with retirement planning, the uncertainty begins with the basic fact that we have no clue how long we’ll live in retirement. And the estimation only grows from there with every forecasting detail introduced. However, while we must not forget the imprecise nature of planning, we also must underscore the great usefulness of the process. Here’s why.
In the section Diversification without Complication, we used the metaphor of a Viking ship, and we’ll use it here in another way. When the Viking captain set out from Scandinavia to raid, he only needed to know to head southwest, into the setting sun. On route, he likely had to alter course based on the wind and weather that turned up. Eventually, he spied land and headed that way. Then he could make out a specific village looking rich in the distance, and he trimmed the boat more finely with the steering oar. He then pointed the ship to a safe beachhead when he could make that out. And finally he steered the ship up onto the sand into a perfect berth between two big rocks. When investing for long-term goals, retirement in particular, you just want to get started, generally heading in the right direction. You will adapt your plans based on what comes your way in life. As the journey progresses, your objectives will become more clear. The closer you get to retirement, the more you can and will refine your plan.
So, if you’re young and/or have no clue what your life will look like in five years, let alone retirement, a high-level approach, what we call the “quick and dirty”, is likely sufficient and in fact most suitable. What really matters is that you start setting aside whatever you can now, just to get yourself in the habit of doing so. And, of course, the earlier you start, the more amped is The Power of Compounding.
If you are older and/or more advanced in your retirement thinking, your plan can include much more clarity and detail. And it is beneficial to do so, as improved accuracy likely translates into improved security. We call this approach the “full monty.”
The planning application we link you to above can accommodate as little or as much detail in keeping with your unique situation.