We all know that regularly maintained vehicles are more reliable, more durable, and have a higher resale value. What about your financial plan? Is a once a year check up on your investment performance enough?
Financial planning is a process, not just a once and done event. It is also about much more than managing investments to get the highest return. Investments are a key component, but there are many other items that should be considered as part of your financial ‘maintenance schedule’.
The first step (before you can drive off the lot) is to develop a comprehensive financial plan. It’s important to take the time to set goals for where you want to be in the future or work with an adviser who can help you to get organized. A written plan should be developed to create a point of reference and should include an evaluation of your current income, bank accounts, investment and retirement accounts, real estate, business assets, insurances, debts and estate planning documents.
Below is a list of tasks that you or your adviser should then consider at each maintenance interval:
- Review your initial planning assumptions and make any necessary adjustments
- Evaluate your income tax bracket to determine:
- If you will be subject to capital gains or if taking losses (called ‘harvesting’) is appropriate
- If you should consider Roth IRA conversions
- If you have withheld enough tax or if any estimated payments are necessary
- Review your tax return to look for ways to minimize taxes for the following year
- Review your tax return to look for any errors (yes, there can be mistakes!)
- Review any upcoming financial decisions to be made
- Evaluate your current income to determine if any increase or decrease might impact your need for tax withholding changes or quarterly estimated payments
- Evaluate your investments to determine if they are performing in line with expectations and appropriate benchmarks
- Replace any poor performing investments with others that have been properly screened for suitability including management objective, consistency, low fees, turnover, etc. (for example: we use a 25-point screening process)
- Monitor prices, ratings and current events for any individual bond holdings in your portfolio
- Evaluate your overall allocation between growth and fixed investments to determine if any rebalancing is needed to restore your original target percentages
- Review account balances and transaction history to ensure proper execution of trades and any money movement between accounts
As Needed or When Changes Occur
- Consolidate your accounts to simplify the management of your finances
- Track your spending habits to determine if you are living within your means and not negatively impacting your financial plan
- Evaluate your potential sources of income that can be used in retirement
- Determine an optimal tax-efficient withdrawal strategy for big expenses or everyday living needs
- Make sure your insurance and estate documents are up to date to reflect any changes in family dynamics and new or updated assets
- Review your income tax deductions to maximize potential tax savings
- Maximize retirement account contributions where possible to reduce income taxes
- Consider funding Roth IRAs to allow assets to receive tax-free growth and possible tax-free withdrawals
- Consider Roth IRA conversions before drawing Social Security to maximize the lower income tax brackets
- Consider distributing charitable gifts from your retirement accounts (once you are age 70 ½) or from appreciated investments
- Obtain quotes for long-term care insurance coverage to determine the potential cost and value of policy benefits
- Review your liability coverage and upgrade to an umbrella policy if warranted
- Consider opening Roth IRA accounts, 529 Plans or custodial accounts for your children or grandchildren
- Evaluate the best methods to save for college expenses for your children or grandchildren
- Coordinate your financial plan with all members of your professional team including accountants, lawyers and insurance providers
- Communicate your plans to family members or others who may be involved at some point to ensure your intentions are known
Your personal situation deserves specific planning and evaluation. Therefore, this is not a comprehensive list that fits every need. But as you can see, there is a lot to evaluate on a regular basis to keep up with your financial plan maintenance schedule.
If you or your adviser are not keeping up with these tasks, you might find yourself in the financial repair shop! Contact Rodgers & Associates, where we work with you to develop, execute, and monitor a strategy that incorporates many aspects of your financial life.