What is financial planning?

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Imagine the scenario: a new prospective client visits our office for an initial consultation, and we ask them what their main objective is for our potential work together. Oftentimes they’ll start by talking about their current advisor or past experience with one. They’ll tell us about the balance of their portfolio and a few even know their asset allocation! But they become really enthusiastic when they move on to what they want to accomplish in their life. They tell us about their family and careers and hobbies and dreams. We love to hear about their biggest accomplishments and what they’re still hoping to achieve. Why does this scenario play out so often? Because planning is so much more than just investing!

 

We believe investment management is a core tool to achieve long term financial goals, and know that the work doesn’t stop there.

 

Can you imagine the amount of stress that would be reduced when you have a workable plan for your money that addresses your current cash flow, your future, and is adapting to your life? We can. We’ve seen the difference it can make!

If your financial advice consists solely of the return on your investments, then you have missed out on the professional guidance and financial peace of mind that a comprehensive financial plan can offer.

A solid comprehensive financial analysis should include at least the following:

Cash Flow Planning:

Do you know how much of a surplus or deficit your household has each month? Do you know the changes you could or should take to meet your and your family’s short and long-term goals? Is inflation factored into these plans?  Good cash flow planning involves not only an emergency fund, but analysis of current and future needs with a solid plan to manage your money in a way that reflects what is important to you.

Cash Flow is the true foundation of any plan. For business owners, income is often inconsistent, so they generally have a good understanding of their expenses but not always on income. For corporate employees, the opposite is often true: they know what they make but can rarely give a detailed record of spending. Either way, without a good understanding of cash flow, it’s impossible to identify how much is available for additional savings, debt reduction, or any other goal you may have.

Retirement Planning:

Everyone’s idea of retirement is unique to them and their family. What do you want retirement to look like and what are you willing to do now in order to make that a reality? A plan is necessary to have a reliable stream of income through retirement assets, maximizing Social Security benefits, and pensions, in addition to knowing what the alternative plan is if one spouses dies or becomes disabled. 

Insurance Planning:

As fee-only financial advisors we do not sell insurance. We evaluate your potential risks and factor them into your financial future. Without considering these risks, your entire plan may collapse with one unexpected event. If you have an agent you work with now, that’s great. If not, we’re happy to recommend one.

Investment Planning:

We believe in keeping emotions in check, good diversification, and low expense ratio investments. Your time horizon and risk tolerance are always considered. We offer a full range of investment solutions and portfolio management services.

Tax Planning:

No comprehensive financial plan is complete without considering the impact taxes will have on various financial scenarios. Which retirement vehicles will place you in the best tax situation now and in the future? Certain investments, cash flow choices, and timing should all be examined for their effect on your overall financial picture. As always, we recommend you consult your CPA.

Employee Benefits/Health Care:

This is often an overlooked aspect of financial planning, but can significantly alter your plans if healthcare costs, employer health coverage, and long-term medical needs are not incorporated in your financial discussions and planning.

Estate Planning

We are firm believers that a good estate plan is a necessity. It’s more than just a will, too! A good plan will include wills, health and financial Powers of Attorney, a health care directive, and potentially trusts.  If your estate plan is in place, we evaluate account titling, beneficiary designations, and other items to make sure your intentions are being taken into consideration with your current situation. If you don’t have an estate plan in place, we’re happy to recommend an estate planning attorney.

And the list goes on! College planning for your kids, student loans, legacy planning –

 

Significant life choices should all be incorporated into

a comprehensive plan that is both practical and actionable.

 

By prioritizing your goals and breaking the plan into manageable pieces, a detailed plan from a Certified Financial Planner professional can assist in mapping out your financial future. Financial planning is an ongoing process that is built around your core values as well as the ever-changing needs and desires for you and your family. This is why we encourage our clients to continue to update us on their changing circumstances.

For the clients that we serve, we are grateful to be part of identifying and implementing planning and asset management strategies that are aligned with your priorities and values. For those of you who have not scheduled a free initial consultation, what are you waiting for? It would be a privilege to help you achieve your desired future. Book an initial consultation here.

 

Our Client Experience

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Many clients have told us that they’ve wanted help with their financial planning & investing work in the past and have tried only to feel overwhelmed, intimidated, or felt like the process ‘wasn’t for me’.

Bridge Financial Planning was built with these insights in mind. We think financial planning should be empowering and engaging. We know that when there’s a clear direction and less stress involved with financial decisions, you have more time to spend on the things that are most meaningful to you!

We can help you understand the implications of financial decisions and take the guesswork and stress out of managing your finances.  Each aspect of your financial life is only a part of the larger picture. For example, a decision about your child’s education may have a direct effect on how and when you meet your retirement goals. Or an investment decision may have tax consequences that are harmful to your estate plans. Often, monthly spending habits affect your long-term goals. Your financial decisions are interrelated.

If you need help identifying risks and establishing and prioritizing goals or if you are not sure where and how to start, we may be the solution.

What should I expect from a financial planning relationship?

A professional advisor should always place the interest of the client ahead of his or her own – the definition of being a fiduciary. If a planner is a fiduciary, then he or she must understand the client’s goals, needs, and current financial situation; and make recommendations based on the best available options.

That’s why we are proud to be one of only a few firms that voluntarily holds ourselves to the highest standards in the industry by being a member of NAPFA (1 of only 4 in the Chattanooga area). Jennifer Harper has been a CFP® professional since 2006, and Allyson Hauss is a candidate for CFP® certification. We are a fee-only firm. That means we do not accept commissions, referral fees, or kickbacks from anyone. That allows our clients to focus on what’s important to them and know that we’re doing the same. We have signed a fiduciary oath.

Not all advisors are held to this standard. You should ask about it as you interview planners.

 

From the beginning, Bridge Financial Planning, LLC set out to make financial planning more welcoming.

 

What does it look like to become a client?

It all begins with a no-cost, no-obligation Initial Consultation. This meeting can be held in person, or by phone or video conference.

During this meeting, you can ask questions, give us insight about your current situation and share your goals and objectives. With the goal of understanding the scope of your needs, we’ll ask questions, and give information on our background, fees, investment philosophy, and explain the expectations of the client/planner relationship. 

After our meeting, we take a bit of time to develop a proposal that we believe is best suited to you, based on the initial consultation conversation.

Each client and their situation are unique. We offer 3 service options to meet your needs.

1.      Some clients are comfortable receiving their financial plan and implementing the plan on their own. For them, we offer hourly planning on an as needed basis. It can be customized to focus on one, several, or all financial planning topics.

Even ‘do-it-yourselfers’ that have the time and expertise to do their own planning and/or investing have received value from our professional and objective advice.

2.      Others would benefit from more ongoing accountability to be sure they stay focused and on-track. But, they may not have a lot of assets to manage – yet, or may have a lot of investments held in an employer retirement plan. For clients like this, we offer a monthly retainer service model. We work together closely in the early months to be sure everything is moving in the right direction. From there, we can meet as needed and tackle any revisions or updates that are needed along the way to stay on track.

3.      We also offer asset management services. Asset management includes financial planning when assets are greater than $250,000.

After mutually determining the scope of the financial planning engagement, the proposal will clarify the goals discussed and the steps going forward. Client agreements and regulatory compliance documents are shared and completed. Questionnaires will follow to further determine not only your stated needs and goals, but also values, priorities, and risk tolerance.

A secure Client Dashboard is created for each client to log into and add sensitive information as well as link accounts to ensure the most accurate details are used to develop planning and recommendations.

Information we often request include:

·        Tax returns

·        Paystubs

·        Credit card Statements

·        Bank and Investment Account Statements

·        Social Security Documents

·        Company Benefits

·        Retirement Account Statements and Information

·        Insurance policy information (health, property, life, disability, etc.)

·        Education Accounts

Next, a Base Facts Review meeting either in person or by phone/video is scheduled to be sure both client and planner are on the same page and all facts and assumptions are correct. After all, a plan is only as good as the information and assumptions going into the plan!

Then we’ll analyze and evaluate your financial details and develop financial planning recommendations, choices, and alternatives based on your circumstances. This is when we create alternative scenarios that will help answer your questions. Common questions include:

·        Is it possible for me to retire when I plan to?

·        Am I taking enough/too-much risk in my investment portfolio? Am I well diversified?

·        Do I have enough/too-much insurance?

·        Can I afford to fully fund my child(ren’s) education and retirement too?

·        Should I focus on paying down debt or saving more?

·        Which is better for me: renting or buying a home?

·        Should I keep my mortgage or pay it down quickly?

·        What if we moved to another state in retirement?

·        Can I still meet my long-term goals if I took a pay cut for better quality of life?

·        As a business owner, how can I manage the financial interconnection between my business and personal finances?

Once we’ve spent time creating your plan, we schedule a time for the Plan Delivery meeting. This is a time for us to share our observations and advice. It is also a time for educating and understanding the impacts of different scenarios. We’ll cover each of the topics outlined in our client agreement.

When we have an ongoing client relationship, the next step is implementing the plan. We can help implement investment strategies and help you stay on track with other tasks such as debt reduction, employee benefit changes, and provide support and encouragement as you become more financially empowered and your plan is more aligned with your goals.

We can help you avoid financial setbacks, deal with unexpected life events, get out of and/or avoid debt, evaluate education and retirement spending and scenarios, and decide where to put your money to reach your goals.

Have confidence that with clear direction you can make progress toward your financial goals.

Will it take time, determination, and discipline on your part? YES!

Schedule your Initial Consultation HERE.