Staying Organized and Financial Planning Are Keys to Success

Eleven key tactics for elite advisors and their clients

By Valentino Sabuco, CFP®, AEP®

Key Takeaways:

  • The beginning of a new year is a particularly good time for both you and your clients to review finances and to update financial plans.
  • Staying organized and planning finances are lifelong processes, and the keys to reaching and maintaining financial success.
  • Sensible financial management is more than budgeting and saving for retirement. It’s about being ready to handle a lifetime of financial challenges, needs and changes.

Happy New Year to you and your family!

The beginning of a new year is a good time for both you and your clients to review finances and update financial strategies and plans. This year is especially important as financially challenging times continue for many individuals and businesses, rich and poor, big and small. Even with recovery efforts advancing, we are experiencing a shortage of jobs, market fluctuations and global financial challenges that will affect our lives for the foreseeable future.

Managing personal finances today is more complicated and more important than ever. We’re living longer, but saving proportionately less. Many of us feel less secure in our jobs and homes than we did in the past. We see our money being drained by the high cost of housing, taxes, education and health care. We worry about the future, or unfortunately, in too many cases, we simply try not to think about it.

More than simply budgeting and saving

Sensible financial management means much more than budgeting and putting money away for retirement. It means being equipped to handle a lifetime of financial challenges, needs and changes; figuring out how to build assets and staying ahead of inflation; taking advantage of deflation; and choosing wisely from a constantly widening field of savings, investment and insurance options. When it comes to finances, you and your clients are faced with more pressures and more possibilities than ever before.

The good news is that as complex as today’s financial world is, there’s no real mystery to sound personal money management. What you need is a solid foundation of organization and decision-making, plus the willingness to put those two things into action. I’ll talk about those core principles in just a minute.

Effective financial management involves certain procedures that you don’t usually learn from your parents or friends—and unfortunately they aren’t currently taught in our schools. It’s more than just a matter of gathering enough information and then making a logical decision. In fact, for many people, the constant barrage of economic news, fragmented financial information and investment product advertisements is part of the problem. Information overload can be a major obstacle to sorting out choices and making wise decisions. That makes your job as elite advisors so very important.

Over the years we’ve developed a personal financial management system that we would like to share with you, the elite advisor. The system is designed to help you and your clients save valuable time and money, while providing a systematic approach to help you better manage finances. Our process centers on staying organized, staying aware of money issues, and making deliberate choices about the ways to spend, save, insure and invest assets, instead of simply following emotions or “going with the flow.” The illustration below represents the financial PARTNER System™, an 11-part process that’s divided into two phases: (a) Getting Organized and (b) Financial Planning.

Getting organized

1. Paperwork. Everyone has primary financial documents—birth certificates, marriage certificates, current year net-worth statement, retirement plan beneficiary statements, deeds of trust, certificates of vehicle title, last three tax returns, gift tax returns, insurance policies, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, passwords, digital paperwork, etc. Help your clients organize this information and keep it in a safe central location that ties into their paper and digital filing systems.

2. Net Worth. Know where you and your clients stand by inventorying what’s owned and what’s owed; the first of the year is an excellent time to do this annually.

3. Cash Flow. Gain control of cash flow by spending according to a plan, not spending impulsively.

4. Employment Benefits. Work with clients to understand and fully utilize employment benefits, the “hidden paycheck.” Any dollar amounts that employers contribute toward health insurance, life insurance, retirement plans and other benefits save money that your clients and you then don’t need to expend yourselves.

Financial planning

5. Goal Setting. Before you begin the financial planning process, ask clients (and yourself) what’s really important financially and personally. These are key elements of planning for your clients and your future; they affect the options, strategies and implementation decisions.

6. Financial Independence and Retirement Planning. A comfortable retirement, perhaps at an early age, is one of the most common reasons people become interested in financial planning. Determine how much money is a reasonable nest egg to reach and maintain your client’s and your financial independence, then determine the right strategy to make that goal a reality.

7. Major Expenditures Planning. A home, a car, and a child’s or grandchild’s college education—these are all big-ticket items that are best planned for in advance. Develop sound financial strategies early on for effectively achieving the funding your clients need for those big bills down the road.

8. Investments Planning. For most of us, wise investing is the key to achieving and maintaining our financial independence as well as our other financial goals. Establish and refresh investment goals, risk tolerance and asset allocation models that best fit each client’s situation.

9. Tax Planning. Your financial planning should include tax considerations, regardless of your level of wealth. Proactively take advantage of opportunities for minimizing tax obligations.

10. Insurance Planning. Decide what to self-insure and which risks to pass off to insurance companies—and at what price you’re willing to do so.

11. Estate Planning. Develop or update your clients’ (and your own) estate plans. If you or your clients get sick or die without an up-to-date estate plan, the management and distribution of assets can become a time-consuming and costly financial challenge for loved ones and survivors.

It is estimated that over 120,000,000 Americans do not have up-to-date estate plans to protect themselves and their families. This makes estate planning one of the most overlooked areas of personal financial management. Estate and financial planning is not just for the wealthy; it is an important process for everyone. With advance planning, issues such as guardianship of children, management of bill-paying and assets—including businesses and practices—care of a child with special needs or a parent, long-term care needs, wealth preservation, and distribution of retirement assets can all be handled with sensitivity and care and at a reasonable cost. This gives the elite advisors a great opportunity to help their clients and their entire family.


Staying organized and planning wisely are the keys to financial success. Short of winning the lottery or inheriting millions, few people can attain and maintain financial security without some forethought, strategy and ongoing management. The beginning of a new year is an excellent time for both you and your clients to review finances and update financial plans. Wishing you an outstanding 2014.

About the Author

Valentino Sabuco, CFP®, AEP®, is the executive director and publisher of The Financial Awareness Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit located in Sonoma County California. Valentino has pioneered the financial planning profession for over 40 years. TFAF serves as a nonpolitical and neutral “financial awareness advocate” for the public, the professionals and their associations, educational institutions, and nonprofits. Our mission is to significantly help solve a major social problem by dealing with the lack of financial awareness and financial literacy. We believe teaching financial literacy is very important as it gives people the essential tools to address everyday financial decisions in a more informed manner. Valentino can be reached at V.Sabuco@TheFinancialAwarenessFoundation.org or (707) 586-8620.