Year-End Financial Checklist
They say failure to plan is planning for failure. While many rely on a financial plan to outline their long term goals and strategies, each year it's a good idea to take a little time to reassess what progress has been made and think further about long-term goals, as well as plans for achieving those goals.
Obviously we all have different financial needs and varying opinions on strategies for achieving our goals. There are many different ways to manage money, so while results are important, much more significant is what system is a comfortable fit for the client.
For example, diversification will, by design, tend to yield lower results than concentrated portfolios, the offset being, ideally, less volatility. Similarly, systems of actively managing money typically have higher fees, as well as better returns - or at least that's the hope.
Consider for example that the Standard & Poor 500 Index is up roughly 12% for the year. Representing a wide array of stocks from varying sectors, the S&P500 essentially illustrates the direction of the broader stock market.
Given the results of the S&P this year, investors need to look at their own statements, and if returns aren't in or at least near double digits, take some time to think about whether to stick with their current strategy.
For those using a diversified strategy, this is probably a good time to schedule an appointment with an advisor, if you have one. This is the time of year to look at the last year and do a little portfolio rebalancing. You might even consider "tilting" your portfolio in one direction or another, based either on your own research or on professional advice.
On the other hand, investors using active management systems like ours have more questions to ask themselves. First and foremost, they need to decide if they're still comfortable with the system their money manager is using. While investors should obviously be pleased with their returns, these are hardly important if they aren't comfortable with their advisor's system.
Those attempting to actively manage themselves have quite a to-do list for the end of the year. They need to be doing research to come up with a forecast of what the market will likely do next year.
Then they need to decide whether they want to be invested. If so, what do they want to own? Are there particular asset classes that look more attractive than others? Do they want to make any moves immediately? Maybe they want to be patient and wait for opportunities to develop.
Few people realize how much work goes into money management. The number of people who think they can trade in their spare time and be profitable is astounding. And despite the odds stacked against them, people continue to try their luck in the markets - and make no mistake, the average investor managing money in their spare time without devoting any real time to research is basing their success on just that: Luck.
No matter the strategy, around this time each year it's a good idea for all of us to spend a little time thinking about the upcoming year, what's upcoming and what might develop. Make a list of any issues coming up this next year that might affect your financial life. If you have a child going to college, hopefully you've been putting money away for some time, but don't forget about the costs of moving and/or traveling to visit.
Take an inventory of these kinds of issues, from travel expenses to health or medical expectations, kids' school costs, and so on. While some of these require long-term preparation, others are good just to keep in the back of your mind. Ignoring them doesn't solve the problem, but at least we can keep them from sneaking up on us.