“Getting your house in order” is a general term for arranging affairs and problem-solving. It can be applied to a number of different situations and those who “have their house in order” are thought to have it all figured out. While many of your clients may have their house in order in some aspects of their lives, their financial houses – which is your biggest concern – is often neglected. Why? The biggest reason is that a lot of people ignore their finances simply because they don’t understand everything they need to do or they’re overwhelmed. Unfortunately, the longer they go without getting things in order, the worse their situation will get. As a financial counselor, one of your main concerns should be making sure your clients have their house in order when it comes to their finances, investments, and retirement. Here’s how you can help.
Suggest a Basic Filing System
When you start asking questions, you’ll probably be amazed at how many of your clients don’t have a basic filing system for items like receipts, bills, tax documents, warranties, insurance policies, and retirement statements. Help them develop a simple system – either electronically or in folders – that helps them retain these important documents. You can also give them basic information on how long documents like these should be kept (for example, the IRS recommends you keep tax documents for seven years), how to safely store them and how to properly dispose of them so they cannot be stolen and used for fraudulent purposes.
Help Them Determine Net Worth
Once your clients have their documents organized in a filing system, you can move on to helping them document their finances and get a good idea of their net worth. Using either a piece of paper or a spreadsheet, have them write out every financial asset or debt. Assets include retirement accounts, bank accounts and large items they have paid off such as cars or homes. Debts include credit cards, mortgages, and loans. Once they have these listed, they can subtract their debts from their assets to see their net worth. This is also a convenient document for them to look at when making budgeting or savings decisions.
Do a Comprehensive Review with Them
Your clients should have a good idea at this point where they are financially and feel more secure that they have everything in order. So now’s the perfect time to suggest a comprehensive review. Encourage them to reach out to their insurance agent to review all of their coverage and personally go over the following areas with them:
If you’ve done your job correctly, you’ve already gone through the foundations of investments with your clients and they know about how time affects their money as well as taxes and the definition of real returns. Now it’s time to look further into their investment mix to make sure they are in line with their goals, current risk tolerances, and timelines. Lives can change quickly and if you don’t review your clients’ investments regularly, their portfolios could easily get outdated.
Retirement plan contributions
Now is the perfect time to go over your client’s 401(k) plans, IRAs and other retirement vehicles to ensure they are getting the maximum employer match and maxing out their limits for tax-deferred plans. Without regular review, your clients could be leaving money on the table when it comes to saving for retirement.
If you’ve done estate planning with your clients, you’ve probably already talked about beneficiaries. However, family discord and life changes can prompt necessary changes and these often get overlooked until it’s too late. Go over who your clients have designated as beneficiaries of life insurance, IRAs and inheritance to make sure they are still accurate.
As a fiduciary, it’s your job to make sure your clients have their financial houses in order and up to date. No matter if they are just starting out as young adults or are reaching the age of retirement, your clients will appreciate your assistance in getting organized.
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