By Rita Cheng, CRPC®, CFP®
Financial Advisor and Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner
Ameriprise Platinum Financial Services
Although many people know that saving for their financial future is important, many don’t know what steps to take to accomplish their goals.
Following is a primer that I use to help my clients understand the playing field of financial planning. My hope is that it will make taking the first steps in the planning process easier for you, too.
Let’s get started.
1. What is financial planning? Financial planning is the process of meeting your life goals through the proper management of your financial resources. These may include purchasing a home, saving for college, or planning for retirement. It’s important to know that financial planning is a process, not a transaction. The goal is to adopt a big-picture, integrative approach to your personal finances.
2. Investment planning in isolation does not constitute financial planning. Financial planning is about controlling spending, managing credit, reducing taxes, increasing savings, protecting family and assets, and building wealth for the future. This process entails gathering financial information, establishing life goals, evaluating your current financial status, and developing a strategy to help you achieve your life goals.
3. Financial planning helps you understand the impact that each financial decision has on other areas of your financial life. For example, increasing contributions to your employer-sponsored retirement plan affects your cash flow, taxes, investment portfolio, and retirement plan. This integrated approach to managing your wealth provides clarity and confidence to your financial decisions. You can also adapt readily to life transitions and gain a sense of empowerment knowing that you are progressing towards your financial goals.
4. Wealth management is a comprehensive investment practice that encompasses financial planning, investment portfolio management, risk management, tax planning strategies, and estate-planning services to high-net worth individuals. There is no generally accepted standard for what products or services constitute wealth management. Wealth management is a holistic approach to understanding and providing solutions to the many financial concerns of a client’s financial life. Just as a primary care physician serves as a gatekeeper to coordinate the care given by varied organizations and collaborates with referral specialists, a wealth manager acts a relationship manager to better serve the client.
5. Finding a wealth manager is important. This person will be committed to identifying and understanding your financial challenges, and proactively identifying solutions. I encourage my clients to think of this in the same way that doctors and patients embrace the philosophy of integrative medicine, which is designed to treat the person, not just the disease. At its core, the success of integrative medicine depends on a collaborative partnership between the patient and the doctor, where the goal is to treat the mind, body, and spirit.
6. Collaboration with a financial team is also critical. As the financial lives of wealthy clients have become more complex, the notion of working with a team of professionals has become more important. Many of my clients value a streamlined integrative approach to managing their financial affairs, and I encourage my clients to build a group of experts who are each focused in a different area, including:
- an investment advisor managing the assets
- an attorney implementing the estate plan
- an insurance agent recommending insurance
- a CPA addressing taxes
Stay tuned for next month! In the September 2012 issue, we’ll describe three tips for choosing the best wealth manager for your business and family.
Rita Cheng, CRPC®, CFP® is a Certified Financial Planner TM based in Bethesda, MD. She works with individuals and families to help them identify, clarify, and quantify their life financial goals and objectives.
Through her personalized approach, she educates and empowers her clients to plan for their personal financial future. She proudly serves as a CFP Board Ambassador to help raise awareness in the public at large, policy makers and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning.
Since January 2012, she has been the president of the Financial Planning Association of the National Capital Area.
For more information, visit www.ameripriseadvisors.com.