Life is a journey, and we travel the road with family and friends. But life is also a financial adventure and one we need to navigate carefully. Here are ten things you need to know about financial planning for a better future.
1: Navigate your life and money armed with choice
We all agree that money is such an integral part of our lives with a big influence on the choices that we can make in the future.
Being able to get advice and a plan with options for this can enhance your quality of life and the quality of life of the people that you love.
It’s important that financial planning and financial education go hand-in-hand because when you have education you have choice, and choice is freedom.
But where should you get your advice and who will help you navigate your financial journey?
Financial planners work with you to help you understand your own financial situation and to get the best outcome you can from the money that you have.
What many might not know is that financial planners understand a client’s personal circumstances better than their doctor, their accountant and their lawyer put together.
That’s because planners take the journey with you – like a trusted navigator.
This is why we call our podcast The Navigating Money Podcast.
2: Ask yourself some hard questions
The hardest question that financial planners ask our clients is often, “What would you like your future to look like?”
It’s all very well to say, “I want to be comfortable. I want to live a simple life and have all the things that I need”. But those are generic answers and don’t get to the heart of what you really want to do with your time in the future.
Maybe you want to…
- Have a family
- Buy a house
- Have a holiday home so that all the family can visit you
- Travel around the world
- Get a camper van and go to New Zealand for three months of the year
It’s important to be specific with what you want so you can create a supportive environment to get to where you really want to be – in spite of life’s challenges.
Ask yourself what you want – ten years, twenty years from now, further than that again. There are lots of things you might want to have and do but without a plan, how could you achieve them?
3: Accept that life has many transitions where money is in motion
The average life will have between 30 and 60 transitions where money is in motion. What that means is money is either coming towards you (such as inheritance or an insurance pay-out) or money is leaving you (through the birth of a child or buying a house).
Money is also in motion if you are…
- trying to figure out what to do with a recent inheritance
- planning on retiring
- planning on selling your business
- supporting your children in the purchase of a new home
- experiencing any unexpected health or financial-related event
It’s through these experiences and life transitions that the financial planner adds incredible value. And let’s be clear, we are not talking about just having a few tactical financial products in place to help with these events. We are talking about the big picture.
There may be an opportunity to look at pensions, investments, mortgages, insurances and life cover or income protection. We do have access to around 90 per cent of the regulated Irish market to pick and choose from the very best options for our clients.
But a bespoke financial plan is where you start!
4: Live your best life now, not just when you retire
There’s an image doing the rounds on social media, and it makes us smile. It shows a beautiful gondola floating down the waters of Venice. On the wonderful boat lies an elderly couple – having the most expensive nap of their lives. Yes, they’re asleep!
Too many people leave retirement and fun too late. Why would you plan travel and activities for when you might be too old to enjoy it?
You should be living your best life right now, while also preparing for the future. And it is all possible!
5: Don’t DIY your finances
It’s fine to do some DIY on your shelves in the shed, but why take a risk with your finances?
The majority of people need to look at their financial situation with financial planners and create a roadmap for the next ten to twenty years of their lifetime.
The sooner a person sits down with a financial planner, the better the potential outcome for the individual.
People can get easily distracted from financial goals without a financial planner in the picture.
There’s a lot of research to show the different kinds of financial biases that are out there, too. These biases impact our decisions and are not always working in our favour.
The whole idea of having a financial planner is having somebody to sit with you while we navigate life with your financial plan as a roadmap.
Planners help you make the right decision and not emotional decisions. You’ll need to talk to a planner if you’ve received an inheritance or are planning who is going to take over the family business, or even to position your business to sell it or extract funds for your retirement.
There are lots of transitions in life when you need to sit down with a financial planner to work out how it all comes together for you.
6: Why should you seek advice (as opposed to doing it alone)?
It’s important for people to seek financial advice. It might seem obvious, but there is both academic evidence and industry-led evidence that clearly shows that people who take financial advice are better off financially and have a better lifestyle at the end of the day.
The difference between financial planners and advisors is that financial planners work for you and are paid by you, the customer.
We put you at the centre of all our conversations and everything that we do is independent of any product – which is very different to working with a financial advisor.
Advisors have a strong place in the advice market, but the advisor is paid by a product producer i.e., a life insurance company or an investment management company commission for placing the product in the consumers’ hands.
7: Know the difference between financial advice and financial products
Here at Foundation Stone Financial Planning Ltd we really try to separate pure financial advice from the product.
Ultimately, it may be that we do advise you to take out a pension because of the advantages that gives you, or an investment policy that allows you to grow your money at or above deposit rates, but we would be very clear in the plan not to outline any particular product or provider.
We simply use the tools to give you a sense of what you should do or can do to improve your circumstances in the future.
We’re not driven by a commission that’s being paid to us. We’re being paid by you; therefore, you are in control, and we put you at the centre of our conversations.
When our advice is given, we don’t put product into the advice because that biases the advice.
You can make choices to help reach your objectives, but we give a clear picture of what the future might look like so you can enter the future with clarity.
The product then is absolutely a by-product of that process, and it doesn’t drive the process at all.
And what about commissions we earn on any product that is later arranged for you with a provider? Well, that is refunded back to you, the customer. We are not paid twice.
8: Objective advice has value
Here’s an example of a recent client who benefited from objective advice.
They were ten years out from retirement and their whole plan, essentially, was based around, receiving a significant income for the next ten years.
The risk that they had was not about when they passed away – their family would have been well catered for. The risk that they had was that if they couldn’t work due to illness, then they would receive no income.
What we did was divert some of the premium that was being paid for life cover into an income protection policy. That was a strategic decision from a holistic view of their needs.
We weren’t looking for them to go and spend more money on more insurance. They needed an income to feed their pension funding, as opposed to simply selling another product into the mix.
It’s important to pay for objective advice as separate from any product or any financial solution that might be offered to you because it makes the advice objective and tailored specifically to your need, as opposed to being related purely to the placement of a financial product into your hands.
Our advice is not biased by any sort of product sale that might be related to the advice.
9: Strategy beats simple tactics every time
How can a financial planner place a product in a client’s hands unless there’s a justifiable need or reason for doing so?
And until we can really tease out with you exactly what you’re looking for in terms of your future, it’s very difficult to justify any sort of product.
It’s not that you shouldn’t start a pension – a pension is a good thing.
It’s not that you shouldn’t have life cover – life cover is a good thing.
But when you put bits and pieces together like that, they’re just tactical moves, as opposed to strategic decisions which connects everything to work properly.
Our core service is the production of holistic, comprehensive financial plans for our clients.
We look at what you have and then have a conversation with you about what you should keep, what you should get rid of, and what we need to talk about in more detail.
We then look at all your current circumstances and spend a lot of time determining what you want to do in the future.
At the end of the process, you will not only have a roadmap created just for you, your goals and your reality, but you will also have us at your disposal, to help you continue to navigate successfully on that road.
10: Money is just a tool – get a return on life
Money is a tool. It allows you to do the things in your life that you want to do.
Our work is not just about a return on investments, it’s about a return on life. We try and work hard to ensure that the advice we give you will ultimately give you an improvement in your life.
That’s a different approach to simply trying to get you into the latest, greatest investment option or opportunity. We’re going to be with you as you journey down the road.
And our work is not about putting money at the centre of our conversation. It’s about you and your best life and getting there with the money that you have.
So there you have it, there is a difference between financial advisors and what we are – financial planners. Too many people meander and hitchhike their way through their financial lives, instead of planning ahead, staying focused and really getting to where you want to go.