Financial planning is not the same for everyone. How can it be? With so many different scenarios, goals and factors to consider as well as unique situations and “what ifs” that come about, what works for one person may not be what’s best for you. Financial planning is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Because of this, how to choose a retirement planner can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.
When finding a financial advisor to work with, make sure he or she has experience working with clients like you. For example, are you in a specialized industry? Have you recently come into a lump sum of money, such as an inheritance or a large bonus? Are you a widow? A parent? A divorcee? If you have specific concerns related to a unique situation, make sure you work with an advisor who can help; not hurt.
Everyone’s financial plan is unique, because it depends on individual goals and situations. Making sure you provide for a family of five has very different needs than buying a business when you’re single. If you just landed your first job, your situation will also be different than someone whose retirement is six years away.
Changes in your life can also change a financial plan. Did you recently have children that you now have to worry about or do you now want to include a new grandchild into your plan? Working with a financial advisor can be beneficial if an event that changes your life in some way occurs.
Some life changes are beneficial, and some are not. Some can be both positive and negative. Opening a business may raise your income, for example, but it can also make you liable for business debts, depending on the business structure.
For unique life changes, it’s important to plan for potential threats to your finances and know the “what ifs” that come along with them.
Let’s look at 5 life changes that can affect your financial planning.
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Birth of Children/Grandchildren
The birth of children or grandchildren can be a joyous occasion, but it can also have significant financial impacts as well. For children, you many need to review your budget to ensure your cash flow is still sufficient to care for them. You may also need to discuss what effects a child or grandchild will have on the other parts of your financial plan.
Financial questions that come along with the birth of a child or grandchild include:
- Have my long-term goals changed?
- Can I still save for long-term desired goals?
- Does the new child have any impact on my ability to save for retirement?
- Do I need to plan for the purchase of a new house?
- Do I need to start/add to a college savings plan?
- Do I need more/different insurance coverage?
- Do I need to update my will/estate plan?
- Is my tax position affected?
A divorce not only splits a one-time family, but it can split your finances too. Your household income may drop outright, or you may be called on to pay significant new costs in the form of spousal, child or other support. You may need new real estate.
Financial questions following a divorce should include minimizing any threats to your finances, both now and in the future.
- Can I still save for retirement and long-term goals given economic changes related to the divorce? Do my contributions to either need to be adjusted?
- What happens to any assets held in common, including retirement accounts? Are my retirement and investment assets and plans still on track?
- What happens financially if either my former spouse or I remarry?
- Should I change my insurance coverage, including life insurance beneficiaries?
- Am I still covered by my spouse’s estate plan? Should my own estate plan change?
- Do any of these changes affect my taxes?
Losing a Spouse
The death of a spouse can be traumatic, and its impact on your financial plan can be significant. If your partner should pass away, it’s important to focus on minimizing any financial threats. If your spouse dies and you aren’t working outside the home, for instance, your income and cash flow may fall dramatically.
Questions in the event you become a widow(er) include:
- Is there a significant negative impact on my income and cash flow? What are strategies to make it sufficient, if so?
- Do I need to downsize where I live?
- How are my retirement plans affected? Is my name on the retirement accounts?
- Am I eligible to draw Social Security on my or my spouse’s account?
- How are my other assets affected?
- Am I eligible for life insurance benefits?
- What are the provisions of my spouse’s will and estate plan?
- How are my taxes affected?
Owning (or Selling) a Small Business
For many people, becoming a small business owner is a major goal. The financial effects are unique to the business and your situation. You may decide to use your investments to purchase a stake in a business, for example, or find yourself with greater (or less) income than you had previously.
If you are a business owner and you’re wondering how to choose a retirement planner, ask all candidates you’re considering these questions:
- Does owning (or selling) a business have an impact on my long-term goals?
- What effect does my business ownership have on my retirement plans?
- What effect does it have on my investments overall?
- Am I personally liable for the debts of my business?
- Do I want to include my business in my will/estate plan?
- What are the effects of owning (or selling) a business on my tax planning?
Sudden wealth can sound like a dream come true, right? But in fact, it’s sometimes difficult. News outlets abound with stories of lottery winners who end up with all the money spent – and not that much to show for it.
Whether your sudden wealth comes from lottery winnings, an inheritance, stock market payouts or a large yearly bonus, talking with a financial advisor can be a game-changer.
Again, if wondering how to choose a retirement planner or financial advisor, ask yourself these questions:
- What do I most want to do with this money?
- How will I feel if I spend it on X goal and it’s gone? How about Y goal?
- Should I pay down debt or put it toward a cushion for emergencies?
- Am I still on track to save regularly for retirement and long-term goals?
- How are my taxes affected?
- Do I want to include this wealth in my will or estate plan?
The answers to these questions will help you preserve and manage your assets while pursuing your long-term goals. How to choose a retirement planner will be different than if you fall in another unique situation, so do your homework and make a decision based on facts; not referrals.