It would seem that the phrase ‘Comprehensive Financial Planning’ is quite clear and easy to understand, but it’s fascinating to hear the different definitions I get when I ask people what they think comprehensive financial planning is. Answers range from managing investments only to including tax planning and maybe retirement planning.
You may find a financial advisor that includes debt management, tax management, investments and insurance in their comprehensive financial plan: a collection that seems overarching, but still leaves some important issues ignored.
With all the variations and with no technical definition issued by the regulatory bodies that defines what comprehensive financial planning is, very few people understand the total picture that encompasses comprehensive financial planning.
Comprehensive financial planning is a health plan for your financial situation
Think of a good comprehensive financial plan as being very similar to a health and wellness plan: you need to focus on and take care of all aspects of your health, not just a few (calling that your comprehensive health and well-being plan.) After all, each of the many aspects of your health and well-being depend upon and affect each other, all working together to help create optimal health and wellness.
And just the same, each of the many aspects of your financial situation depend upon and affect each other, all working together to help create a strong financial outlook. The benefits for both are not just yours; your family shares in the relief, comfort and advantages of your smart decisions as well.
A comprehensive financial plan involves:
- A thorough review of your current financial situation
- A discussion and understanding of your long term, financial goals
- The development of a plan including all financial products needed to take you from where you are today to where you need to be in the future
A solid financial strategy includes, among other topics specific to your life situation and goals:
- Retirement planning
- College planning
- Tax management
- Estate management
- Risk management
- Debt structure
- Complex life issues including your family structure, such as taking care of aging parents now, or perhaps sooner than you expected to.
The only way to create an optimal financial plan, the only way that financial management professionals can help their client fully, is to understand the personal circumstances and look at everything: every bank statement, tax return, insurance policy, everything – in order to make qualified recommendations.
It would be difficult for your financial advisor to help you without first learning about, then assessing, then addressing each portion of your financial picture.
You need the whole picture.
Again, confusion about what constitutes comprehensive financial planning is eyebrow-raising, but the variations out there may be because there is no strict regulatory definition of it. But the industry is slowly moving in the direction of embracing a more all-inclusive standard. We’re already there.
Listen to our podcast on comprehensive financial planning for more information and how this type of service helped one senior gentleman.