If you’ve found a certified financial planner® professional who’s a good fit for you, you’re ready to start working together to create your financial plan. How can you make the most of your time with your planner and get off to a good start? You may have booked a previous “get-to-know-you” meeting with your planner to decide if you wanted to move forward, but your first real planning session is when the true collaboration begins, says Sterling Rempel, a CFP® professional and recipient of the Fellow of fpsc™ distinction, awarded for significant contributions to the financial planning profession in Canada. He runs Future Values, a financial planning firm in Calgary.
Sterling offers three suggestions on how to make that first planning meeting a successful start on your path to financial well-being.
Bring your goals and dreams
First and most importantly, come with a sense of what you hope to accomplish in the meeting and what the next three to five years would look like in your ideal world. Comprehensive financial planning isn’t just about investments or insurance―a plan developed by a CFP professional should take your financial and life goals, as well as all aspects of your finances, into account.
Sterling uses a values-based exercise to uncover clients’ core values and approach to money. This enables him to craft a customized financial plan that covers both wants and needs or, as he puts it, “obligation and aspiration”.
2. Gather these 6 pieces of paperwork
While it isn’t required for the first meeting (it can be provided after your appointment if you don’t have time to put it together in advance), you may want to gather the following information and documentation. Don’t worry about how your current financial situation looks or leave any details out―your planner is there to help, not judge you.
Balance Sheet: Prepare a snapshot of your current assets and debts. It should outline how much you have invested and what you owe.
Insurance: Pull together all of your different insurance plans, including life insurance and any group benefits plan you have in place.
Will & Testament: Bring copies of any estate planning documents you may have.
Investment Details: Details of your various investments.
Properties: Bring details of current properties owned, their market values, and any mortgages owing.
Tax Information: Bring along a copy of Canadian and any applicable foreign tax returns for the past two years and any corporate tax returns, if applicable. Some planners will want to see tax information for a longer period, depending on your situation. If your income information isn’t clearly captured on your tax returns, be sure to include it separately.
3. Disclose relationships with other financial professionals
Bring details of your relationships with any other financial professionals with whom you’re working, as well as their contact information. For example, you may have a tax accountant who you’ve been trusting with your taxes for years and you may also have investments with financial institutions.
While it’s expected that you may already be working with some other professionals in your financial life, and you might find you continue to work other specialists in the future, it’s important to have one comprehensive financial plan that takes everything into account. When it comes to your holistic financial plan, having more than one professional in charge can be like building a house with two architects. At some point, they may be working at cross-purposes to each other.
“In the end, it’s the values you bring to the table, rather than all of the nitty-gritty details, that matter the most,” says Sterling. “Focus on the big picture significance of your life and recognize that it’s not just about the money.”
Get your goals and dreams together, and don’t sweat the small stuff―that’s your CFP professional’s job.
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For more on getting started on your financial plan with a CFP professional, read The financial planning process: What to expect, 10 questions to ask your planner and Do you really have a financial plan? It’s all about the big picture.