Over the course of your lifetime, you’ve likely done some planning to reach your goals–getting accepted to the college of your choice, starting your first “real” job, buying your first home, saving for your future (retirement, children’s education, etc.). You’ve likely reached out to various experts for advice and assistance–guidance counselors, doctors, accountants, investment professionals, real estate agents, insurance brokers, lawyers, and financial advisors.
Ideally, you’ve also prepared for the unexpected turns that life brings so that your loved ones are taken care of. You create, review, and revise plans. You spend time and money to make sure that loved ones will be happy and secure.
Regardless of the amount of planning, the one aspect that’s often overlooked is making sure a plan is holistic from beginning to end.
You should think about your financial plan as a puzzle, with each piece representing a separate and distinct part within the whole (e.g., your retirement plan, life insurance plan, estate plan, college savings plan). It’s vital to remember that as life goes on and each of these pieces adjusts in size or importance, there can be a ripple effect on the other pieces. Make sure that when a change occurs, an adjustment is made so that all your pieces continue to fit together.
And most important, don’t forget your last piece. It’s not necessarily technical or tax-driven. Rather, it’s about making sure that you’ve thought about any additional steps you and your loved ones need to take to ensure that your entire puzzle can be successfully implemented.
Do your loved ones or appointed fiduciaries (such as an executor or trustee) have the skills needed to manage your plan after you’re gone? Are they aware of the plan and your intentions for its implementation? Do they know who your trusted advisors are and how to contact them when they need help? Do they understand why you made the decisions you made? Are they willing to carry out your plan and carry out your particular wishes?
Often, it’s this last piece that gets overlooked. Communication is critical to ensure not only that your loved ones are taken care of in the manner you intended, but also that the relationships among your loved ones stay strong after you’re gone. This last piece will hopefully give you the peace of mind to enjoy your life.