Contributed by: Lewis J. Walker, CFP®
The future. Your future. Your family’s future. The future for those you love and care about. The future for those who depend on you.
A dear friend and fellow financial planner, Richard (Dick) Wagner, JD, CFP, wrote about the future, among other things, in his 2016 book, Financial Planning 3.0: Evolving Our Relationships With Money (Outskirts Press, Denver, CO). In one chapter, “A FutureThink Conversation,” Dick quoted Mahatma Gandhi, who sagely noted, “The future depends on what we do in the present.”
Dick, too, was a sage, an original thinker. He urged financial advisors to become “futurists,” because financial planning is about the future—your future, the future of the people in your life. Dick was proud of the publication of his book and at a meeting in Colorado in 2016 he handed me an autographed copy, which I treasure. Little did Dick know that his future on earth sadly was short. He passed away recently at age 68 stemming from complications suffered in a fall.
What can we know about our future? We can surmise, theorize, strategize, plan. Most assumptions start with today and project trends into the future. But only God truly knows our future. Our best refuge is informed guesswork, but plan we must. Knowing that “stuff happens,” Archbishop Richard Cushing (1895-1970) wisely counseled, “Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”
Prudent people know to plan for a rainy day. For individuals, newlyweds, couples, parents, breadwinners, peace of mind comes from having a “what if?” fund, enough liquid capital to live for a year or more if your income is interrupted. Whether from illness, injury, layoff, you just want to recalibrate your career, or retire, sustainability without going into debt or depending on others is freedom.
Adequate insurance (health, disability, life, property and casualty, basic and umbrella liability insurance) is essential to security and peace of mind. When is the last time you reviewed your insurance portfolio? When is the last time you reviewed your will, powers of attorney for health care and assets, trust if you have one, beneficiary designations, titling of assets? If any of the foregoing are lacking, or not current, your future and that of those who depend on you, potentially is jeopardized. You cannot assure the future, but with adequate levels of insurance you can indemnify them from the economic consequences of your disability or death—family, other loved ones, business partners.
You can plan for major life events and transitions—marriage, children, purchase of a home, starting a business, education (yours and those of children), career enhancements, weddings, travel, business growth and succession, retirement. What is the role of a financial planner in all of this? I love the actor J. K. Simmons who plays the deadpan professor in the Farmer’s Insurance commercials. Showing a visitor around their “Hall of Calamities,” he assuredly intones, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.”
Experienced advisors know more than a thing or two. We know what others experienced, the implications of having a plan, and the fallout that ensued from lack of planning. Any comprehensive plan starts with a conversation. Where are you now? Where do you want to be a year from now? Five, 10, 20 or 30 years from now?
What do you want for those you love and care for, those who count on you? What challenges do you see going forward—positive and negative? What opportunities? What alternatives are available relative to challenges or opportunities? What resources are available to power the appropriate alternatives, both financial capital and human capital? The role of a good advisor is to ask meaningful questions, to help you to challenge assumptions and see possibilities. We know what others have been through because we’ve witnessed a thing or two, many times over!
A plan establishes a data base of resources, financial and otherwise. It sets forth assumptions and expectations. A plan is a starting point, the basis for future reviews and course changes, capabilities available in dealing with the slings and arrows of life.
Dick Wagner left our financial planning profession with a legacy of deep and profoundly challenging thought. What is your legacy? That, too, is part of your future.
Lewis Walker is a financial planning and investment strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-2603. Securities and advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of SFA which is otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group.