It is a common financial planning challenge: just how much time and effort should be spent trying to make the numbers in your financial planning projections as precise as possible? How much research should you put into refining the growth rate assumption for each asset in the portfolio? And its volatility? And its correlation? What about client spending? Should we build a detailed cash flow for retirement, year by year, or is it sufficient to just provide a rough guesstimate of how much money will go towards retirement outflows? Many planners have a strong tendency to fine-tune these numbers and make them as precise as possible, but that in turn begs the question… in a world where the future itself is so uncertain, are the results really more accurate, or is an effort for greater precision just an exercise in futility?
The personal finance space has no shortage of tips to managing your spending, from bag lunches in lieu of eating out at work to home-brewed coffee instead of the morning Starbucks routine. Yet the reality seems to be that in so many situations, we dig ourselves a tremendous spending hole because of our big purchases, and then worry tremendously about the small stuff trying to make up the difference. If you really want to change your financial reality for the better, though, it’s the big stuff you really need to focus on – where you live, and what you drive.
As sayings go, money can’t buy love, and the love of money is the root of all evil. They also say that money can’t buy happiness, but some interesting recent research shows that actually, financial wealth levels really do affect happiness. However, it only helps if you spend it on the “right” things, and act up front to head off your irrationality.
Any form of long-term projection is built on the back of assumptions. In the case of a retirement plan, there are several key factors, including portfolio composition (and assumed growth rates), inflation rates, savings, retirement spending, time horizon until retirement, and the duration of retirement. Yet the reality is that not all of these assumptions have equal impact; some are far more dramatic drivers of plan results than others, and which are most important varies by the client situation. In other words, there are assumptions, and there are ASSUMPTIONS! Have you ever examined the sensitivity of your client’s financial plan to the assumptions they’re using, so you can determine which factors are the most important to focus upon?
In today’s skeptical and cynical world, we believe little that we read or are told until we have a chance to try it for ourselves. The car looks great in the magazine, but we have to take it for a test drive. The TV is supposed to be great, but we want to see how the image looks on the screen in the store before we buy. Yet as planners when we deliver financial plans to our clients, we don’t just fail to give them a test drive; we actually make it onerous to even try!
The President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB) recently released its recommendations on how to simplify the tax code and improve the implementation of tax policy. Embedded within the report are numerous recommendations that would impact our so-called “retirement crisis” in the U.S., and a few of the report’s solutions highlight a surprisingly simple yet important reality: we’re not always very rational about the decisions we make regarding retirement.
We often find great value and pride in owning things – yet the reality is that in many situations, we actually don’t get a lot of use out of much of what we own. Which starts to beg the question – maybe we should spend more time renting stuff we want to use (loanership) when we want to use it, rather than buying it (ownership).
A new blog video post by financial planner Tim Maurer makes an interesting point – the very essence of our 6 step financial planning process includes a conflict of interest that we as financial planners must navigate: that while gathering information and setting goals may be the most important step for a client, it’s not the step where we get paid.
Most planners think of college planning as accumulation planning – contribute to a 529 plan, invest properly, and start spending in 5, 10, or 15+ years; and if you don’t earn much income nor have a lot of wealth, you can apply for need-based financial aid. In reality, though, it’s never too late and you’re never too wealthy to keep doing good planning for college funding… but the strategies are different!