Brad Lupkes, CFP® likens going through life without a financial plan to taking a road trip without a map or GPS.
"You wouldn't just jump in your car and start driving and hope you got there eventually," says Lupkes, a Wealth Advisor in the Wealth Management and Trust Department at Frontier Bank. "Chances are you would decide where you want to go and then sit down and plan your trip, choosing what route to take and where to stop along the way."
Lupkes says a good financial plan works the same way, starting with a clear picture of a person's current financial life.
"What that means on my end, is that we start gathering information," says Lupkes, who has more than 17 years experience developing financial plans for clients. "I ask a lot of questions about their financial situation, their assets and liabilities, how much they have saved for retirement and what they are currently doing."
Early in the planning process with his clients, Lupkes compiles this information into a single page summary that acts as a starting point for a comprehensive, long-term plan. The next step is to decide on the financial destination, including any desired "stops" along the way.
"This is where we start to identify some goals, such as 'I want to retire at 65', 'I want to buy a lake home', 'I want to travel' or 'I want to spoil my grandkids,'" says Lupkes. He then helps clients prioritize these goals and map out a "route" - including timelines and savings and investment targets - that can help them get there.
"After that, it is really just about making sure people stay on track with their plan," says Lupkes. "Life events can happen that may change the goals, markets can change, etc. We feel that the financial plan should not be a one-time thing. The plan is constantly refined and updated on a yearly basis to keep our clients on track."
When to Create a Financial Plan
Many people go years without making any kind of financial plan. But Lupkes says certain life events signal that it may be time to make one. The very start of a person's working life is the best time to begin investing to achieve long-term financial goals. But getting married, having children, or approaching retirement are also good times to consider putting a plan in place.
While the plan itself is not optional, Lupkes says the advisor may be. People with relatively straightforward financial situations who are comfortable investing on their own may be able to create a financial plan without help. But if their situation becomes more complex, it can pay to bring in an expert.
How to Choose a Financial Advisor
Lupkes recommends reaching out to several different advisors to get a sense of their knowledge and experience. It's also important to find someone with whom a person is comfortable forming a long-term professional relationship. Finally, prospective clients should have a clear understanding of how the advisor gets paid.
"You need to understand what types of fees are involved and whether or not they are a fiduciary," says Lupkes. "You should be working with someone who is going to put your interests first, ahead of their own."
Frontier's wealth advisors are guided by their fiduciary responsibilities to point clients toward the best products for their financial goals. Fees are based on a percentage of the assets managed. To find Certified Financial Planners in your area, Lupkes suggests starting with websites such as LetsMakeaPlan.org or Plannersearch.org.
Brad Lupkes, CFP®