Financial Blog

The game of financial planning

Financial articles these days seem to be centered around the usual prevalent topics du jour: interest rates, stock market ups and downs, consumer spending, unemployment, etc. And, of course, those efforts to instill fear in investors about the market. Well, good news, this article won't have any of that.

Last fall, I was coaching our final home game of the high school football season. The night was filled with the emotion of senior night and the finality that surrounds it. Upon the final whistle, many young men shed tears, and some did not. In fact, many of those who I thought would, did not, and vice versa. After all, I had a hard time not choking up as I hugged some of my seniors after their final home game.

Are we emotional? Yes. So what does this have to do with financial planning? Well, It got me thinking about how emotional we can be as investors. While we are investors, we are also human ... with human emotions and reactions. Do we always take a level approach when dealing with our money? Most data would say no, but that is not for me to determine.

It is all about the end game. As an investment professional, a great deal of my job is to strip out the emotion of the markets and focus on the client. Most importantly, what is their end game. What is important to them, and when do they want to call it a career? If we always focus on where they want to get to, it is much easier to maintain perspective and not become overly emotional. Planning for retirement needs to be driven by your end goals, nothing more.

Financial planning is an individual sport. Dont worry about the other team. Too often I hear people compare their situation to others or draw parallels based on conversations they have with colleagues. I have a motto I like to follow in my business. That is, "Don't worry about your neighbor!" It does not matter if your neighbor tells you that you need so much money to retire. What do they know about your situation? Planning should be customized to you and only you.

It is all about the bottom line. It is not always about how much you have. You also have to consider how much you owe. We cannot control the markets. They will go up and they will go down. What you can control is how much you owe to others. After all, your neighbor might need $2 million to retire, but he might also have a mortgage and car payments. The less you owe, the less pressure you need to put on your portfolio to generate income. Make no mistake, we all have a number that we need to get to in order to retire with the lifestyle we want, but those numbers are going to be vastly different across households.

This is what we do. We can help you reach your end game, but I am going to recommend you don't start in the second half. In the words of Matt Hasselbeck, "We want the ball, and we're gonna score." (See overtime coin flip 1/4/2004 Wild Card Playoff Game at Lambeau Field). Unlike him, let's not throw a "pick-six" with your planning. You might be doing everything right and not need our help ... or you might not be.

Adam Madson is a financial advisor with Nicolet Wealth Management (formerly Navigator Planning Group). He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 920-406-8500.

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Are You Offering Financial Planning “Lite”?

The Department of Labors fiduciary rule, released in April, highlights what our affluent research has been telling us for the past decade: The affluent want a professional to oversee the multi-dimensional aspects of their familys financial affairs and have their best interests in mind.

But many advisors are providing a lite version of financial planning.

There are numerous forms of planning software that firms provide their advisors. Some advisors use these tools as they were intended (a comprehensive planning tool) and are providing a valued service for their affluent clients. But others use these tools to create documents that resemble financial plans, touching on goals and basic investment outlook, with the main objective of checking the financial planning box. This is what Im describing as financial planning lite.

Affluent investors want a realistic and comprehensive financial plan that will provide them with a roadmap for meeting their financial goals. This roadmap then becomes their critical path upon which all future financial decisions are made. They are interested in protection strategies, tax minimization and health care guidance.

Look at your top 25 clients: Have you created such a plan for them? Are you providing thorough insurance planning (protection), state and federal income tax planning, and asset protection planning? Have you partnered with a health care specialist? Are you helping each client put their plan into action while monitoring the progress? Are you helping them on track to meet changing goals, circumstances, life stages, products, markets and tax laws? Theres a big difference between creating a financial plan and overseeing the execution of the plan.

Dont be surprised when the Certified Financial Planner designation becomes a requirement for any professional involved in any type of financial planning, regardless of the software being used. Your affluent clients may ask:

  • What qualifies you as a financial planner?
  • How long have you been offering financial planning advice to clients?
  • How long does it take you to prepare a comprehensive financial plan?
  • What are your educational qualifications? Are you a Certified Financial Planner?
  • Whats your involvement after you create a plan for your clients?
  • How are you paid for your services?
  • Will you or an associate be creating my financial plan?
  • Do you provide a written client engagement agreement?
  • How many clients do you have?
  • Do you have clients who might be willing to speak with me about your services?
  • Do you have references from other professionals?

With comprehensive financial planning at the core, executing the plan and providing the full array of wealth management services transforms clients into advocates.

Youre likely to see more advisors shifting from conducting performance reviews to progress reviews towards agreed-upon goals. Regardless of what happens with the DOL and fees, affluent clients will always pay for advice, not advice lite. And true advice stimulates word-of-mouth-influence.

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