The Financial Planning Process
The financial planning process embodies the concept of using a comprehensive approach to help individuals achieve their various life goals through proper management of personal finances. Many people make individual financial decisions as isolated events and fail to consider how these decisions can interact over time. The financial planning process identifies and considers all major financial decisions as a whole.
When working with a client, a competent financial planner applies all six steps of the financial planning process:
- Establishing and defining the client-planner relationship.
- Gathering client data and discussing goals.
- Analyzing and evaluating current financial status.
- Developing and presenting financial planning recommendations.
- Implementing the financial planning recommendations.
- Monitoring and adjusting the recommendations over time.
The financial planning process consists of the following six steps:
1. Establish and define the client-planner relationship.
The financial planner should clearly explain and document the services that he or she will provide to you and define both his/her and your responsibilities during the financial planning engagement. The financial planner should explain fully how he or she will be paid and by whom. You and the planner should agree on how long the professional relationship should last and on how decisions will be made.
2. Gather client data, including goals.
The financial planner should ask for information about your financial situation. You and the planner should mutually define your personal and financial goals, understand your time frame for results and discuss, if relevant, how you feel about risk. The financial planner should gather all the necessary documents before giving you the advice you need.
3. Analyze and evaluate your financial status.
The financial planner should analyze your information to assess your current situation and determine what you must do to meet your goals. Depending on what services you have asked for, this could include analyzing your assets, liabilities and cash flow, current insurance coverage, investments or tax strategies.
4. Develop and present financial planning recommendations and/or alternatives.
The financial planner should offer financial planning recommendations that address your goals, based on the information you provide. The planner should go over the recommendations with you to help you understand them so that you can make informed decisions. The planner should also listen to your concerns and revise the recommendations as appropriate.
5. Implement the financial planning recommendations.
You and the financial planner should agree on how the recommendations will be carried out. The planner may carry out the recommendations or serve as your coach, coordinating the process with you and other professionals such as attorneys, accountants or stockbrokers.
6. Monitor the financial planning recommendations.
You and the financial planner should agree on who will monitor your progress towards your goals. If the planner is in charge of the process, he or she should report to you periodically to review your situation and adjust the recommendations, if needed, as your life changes.