Your Financial Advisor Kindly Requests Your Imagination

By Joe Cilley, CFP® Vice President of Financial Planning, Partner, Merit Financial Advisors

Today, information is ubiquitous. We don’t have to wonder about anything for too long with a search engine in our pocket; indeed, the average American checks their phone 144 times per day. Yet, we often fail to realize that wisdom is at the intersection of information and experience. It’s what we do with the information we read which makes the bigger impact on our life choices. That same analogy can be made for how individuals approach financial planning.

Not everyone will elect to use a financial planning professional in their lifetime. Shockingly, a Forbes Advisor survey found that 79% of millennials and Gen Z have gotten financial advice from social media. Similar to using social media to source medical advice, it’s often not too long before you’ll need to be diagnosed by a professional.

As advisors, our job is to help you achieve your goals and plan for your future, whatever that may look like. I ask my clients to come to our meetings with their imagination. That’s critical as you think about your future.

Let’s take a look at the evolution of financial planning and why more people should consider it to help bring their dreams to fruition.

From Manual Input to Cutting-Edge Technology: The Financial Planning Odyssey

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When I first started working in the business 25 years ago, the value proposition was offering sound advice about proper asset allocation and security selection without taking a lot of risk. Plans were highly dependent on manual entry and static information gathered once but perhaps every year after that, or maybe never again.

As time went by and retirement planning began to change, advisors introduced spreadsheets to better project into the future and to show clients how their money could replenish itself through investment strategies. Newer tools began to emerge, which provided the ability to add more areas of analysis, including income tax planning, estate planning, and insurance planning. Still, planning remained a time-consuming endeavor with a fair amount of manual entry required; those spreadsheets were hard to update and not current from day to day.

Fortunately, today advisors work with sophisticated tools that provide better deliverables and nicer graphics to help clients better visualize how their money is working. These plans are connected and dynamic, with the ability to refresh their input data daily without waiting for advisor or client input. Cutting-edge software grabs data from banks, investment companies, and insurance companies to refresh the information that influences the plan and makes it useful and future-forward. Using our proprietary technology portal Merit Connect, clients can view a consolidated dashboard that helps them see into the future, so advisors are not just gatekeeping this technology but welcoming clients more into the process. It’s one of the more beneficial ways that financial planning has become more accessible. We’ve come a long way in those 25 years.

The Keys to Your Financial Plan

While the advent of technology has evolved many things in the industry, the fundamentals remain the same. Advisors still want to know how much money you have, what you owe in debt, what you make per year, and what you spend your money on. Yet the information gathering and reporting process has been streamlined, greatly simplifying the process for clients.

It’s certainly made the working relationship between advisors and clients stronger. In contrast to the leather-bound plans of the past, which ultimately would collect dust on a shelf, now clients have access to an online dashboard that can create countless reports that showcase the trajectory of strategies, the threats to those strategies, and potential improvements that new ideas can bring. It’s revolutionary for both parties. And while clients are empowered to access the plan for themselves, the process is far from DIY. Advisors bring their depth of experience and wisdom to the table in their partnership with their clients.

Your Imagination is Required

First-time clients might think working with an advisor is all about numbers and math, but what we really need is your imagination to pull everything together. Advisors are curious by design; we want to know about your lifestyle and how we can make your money work to fit your dreams. We want you to imagine where you’ll live, what your hobbies will be, and where you envision traveling when you’re retired.

The best advisors ask about your goals, then discuss the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and then conceptually and specifically how to achieve them. The point of having a relationship with an advisor is not just to create a plan but to execute it by leveraging their decades of wisdom. Advice and technology are changing rapidly and will continue to accelerate, and a good advisor can help bring your imagination to life.

Are you looking for a financial advisor to help you build your best financial future? Contact Merit Financial Advisors today for a complimentary consultation.

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Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Merit Financial Group, LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. Merit Financial Group, LLC and Merit Financial Advisors are separate entities from LPL Financial.