What You Should Expect From Your Financial Planning Professional

Some financial planners will deliver, what I would call, “an assessment that does not have to be in … [+] your best interest” as a suitability assessment, rather than a “best interest” assessment.


The term financial planning often gets thrown around casually. And the term financial advisor also gets applied equally to insurance agents, stockbrokers, investment adviser representatives, and those with advanced designations such as the Certified Financial Professional. 

That said, some financial planners will deliver, what I would call, “an assessment that does not have to be in your best interest” as a suitability assessment, rather than a “best interest” assessment. But the best interest assessment is actually only applicable to a suitable product sale.

While financial planning is often synonymous with or included with investments, the term financial planning may be incidental to the investments but fails to standalone.

What financial planning can and should deliver for you

The following categories show many of the financial issues that can be addressed through a financial planning relationship with a Certified Financial Planner™, Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, and Accredited Investment Fiduciary®.

Cash Flow/Budgeting

  • Creation of personal or business budget
  • Provide guidance and analysis on cash flow management, budgeting, and emergency fund planning
  • Explain various components of cash flow (income, taxes, expenses)
  • Savings strategies
  • Debt management strategies
  • Personal financing strategies
  • Analysis of personal statement of financial position and statement of cash flows

Personal Financial Planning

  • Creating a statement of personal financial position (net worth) and cash flow statement
  • Determining clients’ financial status by analyzing special needs, investments, taxation, employee benefits, etc.
  • Major purchase goal analysis and funding options
  • Advice in a change of lifestyle or major life event (Marriage, divorce, children, job, education)
  • Provide financial guidance/planning for special circumstances including death, disability, job loss, monetary windfall, divorce, etc.
  • Discussion of various mortgage options/real estate purchases
  • Importance of saving (dollar-cost average, compound interest)
  • Net present value calculations include time value analysis, future value, present value, the present value of an annuity due
  • Education on mortgage options and financing analysis
  • Stock option planning
  • Risk management and insurance planning
  • Medical health planning and planning
  • Disability planning
  • Pre-retirement death (economic value replacement) insurance
  • Long-term care-timing/premium coverage
  • Umbrella liability

Tax Planning

  • Tax reduction strategies
  • Tax avoidance strategies
  • Tax deferral strategies
  • Tax managed investing
  • General discussion of deductions and income recognition
  • Answer questions about investment tax issues
  • Discuss statement of personal financial position
  • Analyze personal cash flow statement
  • Analyze and explain Income taxation of life insurance and annuity products

Retirement Planning- Pre-Retirement

  • Social Security and Medicare health care cost planning
  • Retirement needs analysis
  • Savings planning to help clients meet their goal
  • 401(K), cash balance, etc. contribution limits planning
  • Retirement plans analysis and education
  • Beneficiary designation planning
  • Employer plans vs. self-directed plans analysis
  • Act as a liaison coordinating of retirement plan service providers, product sponsors, or vendors
  • Education on withdrawal strategies and sequence of returns risk
  • Pension analysis benefits of lump-sum vs. annuitization
  • Roth conversion analysis

Retirement Planning- Post-Retirement

  • Required minimum distribution or 72t calculations and analysis
  • Sustainable spending rate analysis
  • Needs wants and wishes income planning strategies and implementation
  • Beneficiary designation planning

Education and College Planning

  • College costs and inflation analysis
  • College cost reduction strategies
  • Development of funding strategies
  • Provide direction on ownership of assets
  • Discussion of qualified tuition/college saving plans
  • Financial aid strategies

Investment Planning/Asset Allocation

  • Risk and reward (risk tolerance analysis)
  • Risk tolerance/risk capacity/need tolerance assessment
  • Risk and reward education
  • Asset allocation analysis
  • Socially responsible investing investment integration
  • Diversification analysis
  • Analysis and research on individual securities
  • Investment policy statement development
  • Tax managed investing

Estate Planning

  • General estate planning and gifting strategies
  • General estate tax planning and education of trusts and estates General trust planning and education – types, features and taxation
  • Explanation of estate planning structures/documents – wills, powers of attorney, Trusts, etc.
  • Sources of estate liquidity planning
  • Ownership titles and titling of assets planning
  • Discussing the impact of account and trust beneficiary designations

Business Financial Planning

  • Cash flow analysis
  • Retirement planning
  • Succession planning
  • Employee benefits planning
  • Business use of insurance analysis

Expect more out of a financial planning relationship

Financial planning delivered by a Board Certified, Certified Financial Planner™ professional is relatively uncommon. Moreover, CFP® professionals who offer standalone financial planning are even more uncommon. Financial planning professionals should be able to deliver a return on investment on their financial planning advice.