Any good financial plan ahs two distinct areas of interest. One part belongs to the person whose plan it is and the other part is shared between the person and his advisors.
The client owns the strategic part and yet we find few actually spend much time thinking it through. They should. It leads to better team building, easier to understand priorities, and a clear awareness of the resources available to execute it. The idea is to find your vision of the future. When you know what that is, many otherwise difficult decisions become easier and many others are easily ignored as not important for you.
George Schultz, businessman, economist and advisor to presidents has an interesting take on why Ronald Reagan was so effective.
“If you have very strong views and understand why you have them, you can think strategically.”
Thinking strategically allows you to make better decisions about tactics and execution of those. You have the big picture in mind and know the time frame that will have it play out. Many things won’t fit and they are readily apparent. A clear vision and study of what you are trying to to and what you have to do it with makes life simpler.
Many people think this is the hard part and if you focus on a single problem they can be. From the strategist standpoint though, you don’t need to know how. There are others that come into the picture to actually do what needs to be done. They are better at it than you can be because they do it all the time.
Strategy is a thinking skill. It will involve understanding yourself, those around you, time, money resources, and an idealized expectation for the outcome for your life. A 10-year-old could do a credible job of that.
Tactics are another story. Many tactics are tools. Highly sophisticated tools that have been formed from the experience of mankind over the centuries. The first know life insurance policy was issued on 18 June 1583. Modern policies are not similar but the idea has prevailed. If someone has obligations that require their future income to settle, the inability to settle them because of death, should be insured. In exchange for premiums, transfer that risk to someone or some entity that can afford the loss.
There are several kinds of insurance that evolved over the years. Liability insurance, casualty insurance like fire or damage to a vehicle, theft, kidnapping, business interruption, health and dental, and more. Each has a particular task and reason to own.
Insurance has been joined in the tool cabinet by investment funds of many kinds. From hedge funds to ETFs. The ide is to find a way to transfer money to the future with limited involvement for its management during the time it’s invested.
Contracts and other formal arrangements like powers of attorney and wills are common. Each is a tactic.
Tactics are limited by the rules of law and regulation. Those change. The tax treatment of them may change and obsolete certain structures. The economic conditions can radically change the way they behave. These things are all complicated and most experts work hard to keep up with just one of them.
You don’t have the time, the training, the experience or the interest to be involved in picking the tools nor in executing them once decided. Seek help, but under your conditions.
The condition is the advisor must know and understand what you are trying to accomplish. If they do their presentation will look like this:
“We have searched for products and techniques that address your specific concern or opportunity on this particular point. Given the resources available, the dimension of the problem, and the time it must function, we find two approaches that would work. Here’s how each behaves in your context. ……. We recommend “A” because ……”
When you see things this way, you can understand their purpose and method of execution with the strategic backdrop as a guide. You can assess whether the resources are the right amount given your other objectives. You can see the time space and any management that you must contribute in the future. In short, you decide on your own terms and remain in control of the global plan.
With no strategic backdrop, you have no way to know how to allocate resources to all of the things you must do. No limits and no priorities is an impossible plan. Those are all frustrating and eventually fail.
When you have no strategic plan, most steps start with a particular tactic. Someone approaches you with the newest idea or product. A shiny object. You cannot achieve a strategic plan by collecting tactics.
You are the planner and others can help you. If they do the plan, is it really your plan or some idealized idea of what a plan should be?
You must be able to decide and know what you want, what you have to get it with, when you want it, who is involved, and why you want this particular structure. If you can’t write it down, you are not done.
Your plan will be affected by your sense of duty to others, your risk tolerance, your earning ability and how you might change it, your time scale, and who you see yourself to be as a person. We each have style differences and alternate ways to value our achievements.
You must learn how to use professionals. They are all tacticians. they can contribute to your strategic plan by pointing out contradictions and missing pieces. No more.
You must allocate your resources among lifestyle, debt payments, savings, taxes, and risk management. Not everything can be accomplished at once, so you will need priorities.
You will require a decision making skill and method.
If anyone tries to sell you on a product without attention to what you are trying to accomplish, walk away. Maybe run.
It is easiest to get where you are going if you have a map and guides to deal with the details.
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I build strategy and fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways and alternate timing to achieve both spending and estate distribution goals. In the past I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning, have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Banks – from CIBC to the Business Development Bank.
Be in touch at 705-927-4770 or by email to email@example.com