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Overview of financial planning


Financial planning for a stable and comfortable future takes time and effort. There can be many factors involved in the quality of life for a post-retirement person, and the more you know about these factors, the better you can help prepare. This article provides an overview of what financial planning is, how to get started, and who can help.

How to talk about financial planning

Every family is different: some are completely open and frank in their discussions about money, whereas others might be more reserved and consider finances a private matter. However your loved one prefers to talk about money, try to be understanding and meet them where they are. Tax time is a natural time to broach the subject, as they will likely have money and planning on their minds already. Begin the conversation early if you can. The best time to plan for the future is long before it happens. And remember that most financially independent older adults have a lifetime of experience and habits built up that have worked for them over the years. 

Gather records

It may seem tedious—and indeed, it might take days or even weeks to gather all the documentation you need—but having everything in one place will give you a solid grasp of what funds are available and how organized the documentation is. This will help you construct an overview of assets and liabilities (debts) to begin your financial planning. 

Keep the records in a safe place, where all of the people who need to can access them. Get copies to the people that need them. Digital filing cabinets are a service provided by bankers and professional financial planners, and can be tailored to individual privacy needs, often including a “read only” option for family members to keep informed.

In order to construct a comprehensive financial plan, you should gather the following:

  • All bank accounts and current balances
  • Pensions and retirement accounts
  • Legal documentation such as durable power of attorney, will, or trust
  • Mortgage
  • Car deed and insurance policy 
  • Health insurance plan information
  • Safety deposit box key and inventory of items
  • Marriage and birth certificates
  • List of contact information for all people who have access to the accounts or who have assisted in planning

Have goals

By having a clear set of short-, mid- and long-term goals, you can approach financial planning with a structure and a plan. Short-term goals could include plans like consolidating monthly costs or simplifying bill payments. Other, longer-term goals might include large purchases or investments, sale of valuable assets like a home or car, and budgeting for live-in home care when it becomes necessary. From there, you and the person whom you are helping can craft a budget that encompasses these everyday costs as well as big-ticket items. This will also help you determine the general health of the person’s finances, and whether they might need to cash in some assets or cut down on some costs in order to stretch their retirement income further.

Simplify and consolidate

By the time they reach their later years, many people have bank and investment accounts scattered across several financial institutions. They may have signed up for a high introductory interest rate, for example. If it makes financial sense, consolidating accounts into one larger account or fund can make things easier in the long run, and might even have the added bonus of offering a higher interest rate. 

Look for ways to cut costs, too: perhaps now is the time to add your loved one to a family phone plan, or change car insurance plans. Take a look at the health insurance options as well. Most adults over 65 are eligible for Medicare, but Medicare Part B might be an option, and they may be eligible for Medicaid as well.

Finally, discuss whether automated or online banking is an option. Some older people might need assistance navigating online banking at first, but with some practice it can be a great option to avoid forgotten or missed payments. 

Get help if you need it

If the person you’re caring for already has hired a financial planner, banker, lawyer, or other professional, make sure that you have their contact information and are aware of any regular check-in meetings or communications. If the task of managing another person’s finances in addition to your own is something beyond your time or skills, it might be wise to engage the services of a professional. Daily money managers can step in and help with writing checks to cover bills, reviewing account balances, and protecting against fraud or scams. A certified financial planner has experience and knowledge gained from working with multiple clients through different circumstances.

Related information

Assets and liabilities

Financial advisors

Getting help from a financial expert

Online financial services

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