Financial Planning: Get The Big Picture

Do you picture yourself owning a new home, starting a business or retiring comfortably? These are a few of the financial goals that may be important to you and each comes with a price tag attached.

That’s where financial planning comes in. Financial planning is a process that can help you target your goals by evaluating your whole financial picture, then outlining strategies that are tailored to your individual needs and available resources.

A comprehensive financial plan serves as a framework for organizing the pieces of your financial picture. With a financial plan in place, you’ll be better able to focus on your goals and understand what it takes to reach them. Goals such as: saving and investing for retirement; saving and investing for college; establishing an emergency fund; providing for your family in the event of your death; and minimizing income or estate taxes

One of main benefits of having a financial plan is that it can help you balance competing financial priorities. A financial plan will clearly show you how your financial goals are related. For example, saving for your children’s college education might impact your ability to save for retirement. Then, you can use the information you’ve gleaned to decide how to prioritize your goals, implement strategies, and choose suitable products and/or services. Best of all, you’ll know that your financial life is headed in the right direction.


Creating and implementing a comprehensive financial plan generally involves working with a financial professional to:

– Develop a clear picture of your current financial situation by reviewing your income, assets and liabilities and evaluating your insurance coverage, your investment portfolio, your tax exposure and your estate plan

– Establish and prioritize financials goals and time frames for achieving these goals

– Implement strategies that address your current financial weaknesses and build on your financial strengths

– Choose specific products and services that are tailored to meet your financial objectives

– Monitor your plan, making adjustments as your goals, time frames or circumstances change


The financial planning process can involve a number of professionals.

– Financial planners/advisors typically play a central role in the process, focusing on your overall financial plan, and often coordinating the activities of other professionals who have expertise in specific areas. In addition, they provide advice about investment options and asset allocation and can help you plan a strategy to manage your investment portfolio

– Accountants or tax attorneys provide advice on federal and state tax issues

– Estate planning attorneys help you plan your estate and give advice on transferring and managing assets before and after your death

– Insurance professionals evaluate insurance needs and recommend appropriate products and strategies


The financial planning process doesn’t end once your initial plan has been created. Your plan should generally be reviewed at least once a year to make sure it is up to date. It’s also possible that you’ll need to modify your plan due to changes in your personal circumstances or the economy. Here are some of the financial events that might trigger a review of your financial plan:

– Your goals or time horizons change

– You experience a life changing event such as marriage, the birth of a child, health problems or job loss

– Your income or expenses substantially increase or decrease

– Your portfolio hasn’t performed as expected

– You’re affected by changes to the economy or tax laws


What if I’m too busy? Don’t wait until you’re in the midst of a financial crisis before beginning the planning process. The sooner you start the more options you may have.

Is it complicated? Each financial plan is tailored to the needs of the individual, so how complicated the process will be depends on your individual circumstances. But no matter what type of help you need, a financial professional will work hard to make the process as easy as possible, and will gladly answer all of your questions.

What if my spouse and I disagree? A financial professional is trained to listen to your concerns, identify any underlying issues and help you find common ground

Can I still control my own finances? Financial planning professionals make recommendations, not decisions. You retain control over your finances. Recommendations will be based on your needs, values, goals and time frames. You decide which recommendations to follow, and then work with a financial professional to implement them.


Robert Fenton is a wealth management specialist and financial advisor with Raymond James & Associates in Traverse City. He can be reached at

This information was developed by Broadridge, an independent third party. It is general in nature, is not a complete statement of all information necessary for making an investment decision, and is not a recommendation or a solicitation to buy or sell any security. Investments and strategies mentioned may not be suitable for all investors. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Raymond James and Associates, Inc. member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC does not provide advice on tax, legal or mortgage issues. These matters should be discussed with an appropriate professional.