In my inaugural “Do It Together” (DIT) post, I emphasized that an ideal client/advisor relationship helps you concentrate on the details that contribute to your financial well-being and ignore the ones that do not. But where do you begin? How do you make sure those details come together to create a better life for you and your family?

The answer is planning. The best way I know to get started is by developing a comprehensive life plan, created in a DIT partnership with an adviser who has been there, done that, for families like yours.

A Blueprint for Success

When people ask me to assist them with their financial affairs, they often want to dive straight into the action: What investments should I buy?

While this is important, it can only properly be answered in the context of your goals and circumstances. That’s why I prefer to begin with a conversation about your lifelong plans. What makes you tick? What big-ticket items do you need to fund in the near- and long-term? These run the gamut: wedding, home, children, higher education, work, play … and eventually, a satisfying retirement.

With this information, we can roll up our sleeves and build your life plan in its proper context. It should include investment-specific components as well as strategies for your wider interests and the many moving parts involved, such as: tax optimization; income protection (life and disability insurance); estate structuring (efficient transfer of your assets); and charitable-giving.

Here are just a few of the planning issues that clients and I have discussed and dealt with together:

Tax Optimization

  • Positioning investments across taxable and tax-sheltered accounts for maximum tax efficiency
  • Dividing income between spouses (if one makes less than the other)

Income Protection

  • Identifying risks to your family’s income and the extent to which they may occur. For example, what worst-case scenarios should you be prepared for? Can you afford to self-insure if something happens to you tomorrow?

Estate Structuring

  • Ensuring your will is synchronized with the rest of your financial objectives
  • Determining whether additional structures such as a trust or holding company are warranted
  • Using insurance to enhance a tax-efficient transfer of funds to your children

Charitable Giving

  • Maximizing the impact of your donations to ensure that your legacy lives on through the causes you care about

Of course you and the world around you are constantly on the move. Your life plan requires ongoing maintenance if you want to keep it relevant and practical.

Next up, we’ll talk about DIT investment planning, another essential tool for keeping your well-built money management plans on course over time, through our ever-volatile markets.