As the end of the year approaches, it’s easy for our clients to become distracted by the events of the last year rather than looking ahead to the possibilities the new year could bring. To help clients stay ahead of any potential problems, advisors create financial plans that help clients manage their finances proactively.
By regularly revisiting your clients’ goals and reviewing their action plans, you can demonstrate the progress they’ve made and identify the necessary actions going forward to achieve their goals. In particular, the end-of-year review provides an excellent opportunity to connect with your clients, discuss their progress over the past year and adjust their goals and intent for the year to come.
Inflation rates have raised costs across the board for American consumers; however, this isn’t the first time we've faced hardship – and it certainly won’t be the last. I often think of Mike Tyson’s quote, “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”
There will always be something that threatens to set my clients’ goals off course, and my role as an advisor is to help them be prepared no matter what lies ahead.
If you only take reactive action when planning, you miss the opportunity to find solutions that can also provide security in the future. By creating plans for the long-term, clients are better able to handle the ebbs and flows of the economy.
At the end of the year, this means, at minimum, preparing for Q1 and Q2 of the next year and evaluating the goals you and your client established at the beginning of the planning process.
At the outset of our relationship, my clients and I establish goals that they want to achieve over the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years and so on. At the end of the year, rather than focusing simply on hurdles from the past year, they can look at their goals to track progress.
For example, if their goal is to purchase a home in five years, what can we be doing to help them reach this target? How are they tracking towards achieving this? This will help them to identify what small steps can be made now, even as they face the hurdles of the year to come.
To make those long-term goals achievable, my clients and I establish a financial checklist that outlines the different objectives they have for their finances. Goals could be to retire in 20 years, build a college fund for a child, or even create an emergency fund with three months of income saved.
We identify the major goals, then plan out the small wins over time that will ultimately make that dream possible. If the goal is to retire in 20 years, set up a retirement plan and note how often it needs to be reviewed. Each goal should have various ways to show progress, so the client is not deterred and sees the value in the proactive planning.
This checklist guides planning conversations and helps adjust and identify new targets in the new year. Consider this your time to review the checklist the client has developed and determine what they still consider a priority. Do they still want to buy a house in five years? If so, you can develop a plan with the current economy in mind.
As we know, anything can be achieved executed in small steps over time rather than all at once. These small victories will lead to the big goals down the road, which will validate your clients’ concerns while also seeing the positive work being done.
The uncertainty of the current economy is something we have faced before and is sure to happen again. Our role as advisors is to take in our clients’ concerns and help them understand how to manage their own expectations.
By implementing a proactive approach with tools such as the financial check list, clients can gauge their financial health based on their own goals and desires. As you head into 2023 planning, keep in mind ways you can help clients to better understand their financial standing and help them get started off on the right foot in the new year.
About the Author Sara Samuels, J.D., CLU®, RICP®, Wealth Management Advisor with Northwestern Mutual-Chicago, specializes in working with small- to medium-sized businesses in a CFO-type capacity, as well as with individuals that are new wealth creators. Her goal with all her clients is to financially inspire them, so they reduce economic vulnerability and build enough wealth to live their very best lives, now and in the future. Samuels has been an MDRT member for 10 years.