An axiom you hear often in the financial world is that “every person’s financial situation is different.” That’s undoubtedly true. What you don’t hear often enough is that every person’s financial goals are different. Goals often tend to get stripped down and over-simplified in the planning process. For example, having a goal of “long-term growth” or “to retire at 65” is useful, but it is not specific enough to build a comprehensive plan around.
The end result is that over-simplified goals often result in over-simplified retirement plans.
Goals-based wealth management is designed to help investors avoid the over-simplification trap. The idea is try to be as specific as possible about each outcome you want in retirement. Just about everyone wants long-term growth. But does everyone want a mountain home in Colorado and to help with the down payment on their grandchildren’s homes? Probably not. Digging into the details matters, and usually reveals quite a lot about what your goals really are for retirement. Once you’ve made a list of goals that’s unique to you, your financial advisor can work backwards to make sure your investment plan addresses each one head-on.
Getting Started: Identifying Your Financial Goals
A good starting point is to organize each of your goals by when you’ll need the money. This ‘divide and conquer’ approach will help you establish what type of investment strategy makes sense for each goal or need.
For example, if you need this money in 10 years, your investment approach may be different than if you need the money in 30 years. The money you’re setting aside to buy a second home in 5 years, for instance, may be invested much different than money you need for longer-term goals like estate planning and funding health care later in life.
Exercise #1: Grab something to write with and take 5 minutes to answer each of the following questions. Your answers don’t have to be final, but they should at least give your financial advisor an idea of some of the goals that you have for your future.
- What goals do you want to meet in the next 5-years or less? What are the financial implications of these goals?
- What goals do you want to meet in the next 10-years?
- What goals do you want to meet in the next 25-years?
Studying this graphic closely will give you some insight into how investing for short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals works:
Another useful way of dividing up your life goals is to categorize them as “wants,” “needs,” or “legacy” (estate planning) items.
Exercise #2: Label the goals that you wrote down in the previous exercise as wants, needs and legacy items.
This will also help you know what investment strategy aligns with each goal. As mentioned before, legacy type (long-term) goals could warrant a more equity-focused approach, while ‘needs’ (short-term goals) should probably be addressed with cash reserves or more secure forms of income.
Assigning Dollar Values to Each Goal
A plausible next step is to assign an estimated dollar value to each goal you have. This step will give you defined benchmarks to reach, so you know how much you need to save and what type of long-term return you need to reach your marks. This type of planning will also allow you to see how close (or far) you are from your goal, so you always know where you stand. Instead of striving to “retire with $3 million,” for example, it could make more sense to frame your goals as follows:
- We need $1 million for everyday living expenses
- $200,000 for travel
- $100,000 for tuition
- $450,000 for a second home
- $500,000 for health care and emergency needs
And so on. Specific numbers on specific goals can add clarity and help fine-tune the planning process.
Do You Have a List of Financial and Retirement Goals with Assigned Dollar Values and a Timeline?
The challenge for investors is taking the time to map out your various goals and where they fall (short-term wants/needs, long-term wants, legacy planning, etc.), and then investing accordingly. WrapManager can help.
By speaking with one of our Wealth Managers today, you can set yourself on a course of “goal-based investing” taking into account your specific needs, wants, and desires for retirement. The first step is easy: request a personalized investment plan here.