I often describe the financial planning we do at Keen Wealth as a checklist-driven process. Using checklists does not just ensure that my team always has the relevant issues covered. It gives financial planning a structure that helps folks understand how their money is working for them. Our checklists also keep the lines of communication open and can spark some important dialogues that help us understand what financial issues are on folks' minds, what life transitions they may be anticipating, and what problems we may be able to help address.
Here are three groups of checklists that are central to Keen Wealth's process:
1. Seasonal Checklists
For my team, the start of the New Year puts a big spotlight on tax preparation. Some of the items on our First Quarter tax prep list includes working with clients to insure that:
- All tax related forms including 1099’s from custodians and banks are gathered.
- Charitable giving receipts are compiled, including cash donations, stock transfers, in-kind donations of property, qualified charitable distributions and donor advised fund contributions.
- IRA contributions are topped off for the previous year.
- Updating dependents (which could include older parents or other relatives).
Putting all these things together can take time, and combined with the potential delay in tax documents or corrected tax documents being sent out, we recommend most clients wait until March before meeting with their CPA.
The Second Quarter can be a great time to "spring clean" your finances, which might mean:
- Reviewing your household budget.
- Scanning and shredding old receipts and financial statements.
- Reorganizing and safeguarding important documents, such as your estate plan and I.D. cards.
- Reviewing your estate plan and making any necessary updates.
In the Third Quarter, you might be thinking about budgeting for the summer and fall, such as:
- A family vacation.
- A child or grandchild's school expenses.
- Holiday gift spending.
And then in the Fourth Quarter, we prepare to close the books on the year by considering:
- Medicare Open Enrollment options.
- Year-end charitable giving, including qualified charitable distributions (QCD’s), cash gifts to family, and other donations.
- Verifying seniors 72 and over have taken their required minimum distributions (RMD) for the year.
- Year-end tax planning.
- Goal setting for the year ahead.
2. Transitional Checklists
The second group of checklists we use help to prepare folks for major changes in their lives: having children, buying a first home, changing jobs, and, of course, retirement.
Our Pre-Retirement Checklist lays out the decisions that someone should make if they're aiming to retire in the next twelve months. The goal is to create a glide slope that helps people think about how retirement is going to affect their lives, to plan ahead for retirement, and then ease into the Golden Years when the time is right.
Some of the questions we aim to answer are:
- What are the sources of income in retirement?
- How will the tax situation change?
- How will pre-65 retirees manage health insurance?
- Are both spouses retiring or is one still working?
- Are both spouses aligned on spending, saving, and investment goals for retirement?
- Who are the people close to the retiree who will provide an emotional support system?
- Does the retiree plan to stop working altogether or will he or she take a part-time job?
- What are the passions the retiree plans to pursue in retirement?
- What is on the retiree's bucket list?
3. Master Checklist
Above are just examples some of the checklists that we work with at Keen Wealth. Each of these checklists can be personalized to fit individual needs. Each can be adjusted to suit external changes (such as tax laws) and personal ones (such as the birth of a child or a change in income).
These checklists filter into our Master Checklist, which encompasses the major factors of a holistic financial plan:
- Current income.
- Household spending.
- Tax planning.
- Estate planning.
- Anticipated life transitions.
- Emergency reserves.
- Retirement income needs.
Checklists add up to more than just numbers. They give my team a comprehensive picture of a person's whole life and allow us to have meaningful conversations with you without having to worry about, “oh, did we forget something?” Most importantly, by filling in that picture to include everything we can see coming, Keen Wealth can build flexibility into the financial plan to prepare folks for all the unexpected bends in the road ahead.
As you read through these sample checklists, did you notice any potential issues in your own financial plan that you need to address? Call up my team at Keen Wealth and we can start crossing off those boxes and sync your financial plan with your life.
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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