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Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda


You likely recommend your patients get an annual physical to assess their health. If you want to achieve your long-term financial goals, make sure you also get an annual financial check-up.

doctor with calculator

Sound familiar? Is it safe to say that these 3 words have gone through your mind at one time or another? Opportunities present themselves and are acted upon becoming a tangible addition or just a fleeting memory.

Time to Get Started

An annual physical is a staple in healthcare that most subscribe to and participate in by visiting their doctor. If something suspicious is found then necessary testing can be ordered. The same concept can be used for an annual financial checkup, although some financial professionals suggest quarterly reviews. Not only does this assess your financial wellbeing to date, but allows you to make necessary changes going forward. As in health, nothing in finance remains static. Our environment is a dynamic, ever-changing phenomenon which has profound effects on all of us. Whether in health or finances, remaining proactive allows an individual to make smart and well-informed decisions after the available data is analyzed.

There is a litany of items at any given time that may become part of your bucket list. However, will you accept the responsibility to do what is needed in making 2015 a great year? Are you committed to devoting the time and effort necessary to transform those really important bucket list items into tangible goals and making an investment in your future? The great thing about planning is you can dream about where you want to be at some time in the future while simultaneously taking the necessary steps to get there. The challenge is having a crystal clear vision in your mind’s eye and maintaining the necessary financial fortitude to see it through. It has been said innumerable times, the earlier you start a planning and savings program the more likely you will achieve your goals. As time can be your friend, it is also your nemesis. Despite the inevitable turbulence life brings, those who plan seem to be able to weather the storm of life’s challenges versus someone who takes it one day at a time. As we are unique, there is no blanket cure that will fit everyone perfectly.

Items to Ponder

Are you funding your retirement in every way possible and taking the related tax deductions or savings? Are you confident your portfolio is allocated correctly, the fees paid are reasonable, and your risk tolerance is appropriate for your age and socioeconomics? Can you afford to take losses and how do you react to large market shifts? Is your business protected with adequate insurance and other liability coverage? If a partnership, is there cross-covered life insurance or key person insurance? Have you considered the options available to incorporate your business and its related benefits? Do you have an emergency fund of cash to cover 3-6 months (or more) of expenses and is it fully funded? Are your tax liabilities paid timely or in arrears? Do you have a separate tax savings account?

Are you aware under what circumstances you are required to take a required minimum distribution (RMD) from a retirement account or not? If approaching Social Security eligibility do you know the different options available to you or your spouse and when best to take benefits? Do you know that some individuals are eligible for Social Security at age 60? What if one or both of their parents are disabled, retired or deceased and have children under age 19?

Is your mortgage payments up to date? When was the last time you looked at the interest rate versus the prevailing rate? Are your insurances current for the correct value of your home, car, boat, jewelry, art, etc.? Are you over- or under- insured? Do you have a comprehensive umbrella policy? Do you live within a mile of water and have flood insurance? Do you own life insurance? Do you know what kind, the values and provisions of each with related beneficiaries? Have you considered a revocable or irrevocable trust for specific purposes and the advantages of each?

If you have children or grandchildren are you funding their education and how? Are you proactively reducing your gross estate by gift giving and not necessarily to a charity? Is a large charitable gift a goal and do you know the many options you have? Have you given thought to a long-term insurance policy which some consider “wealth insurance”? Are you aware of the benefits of personal disability insurance and whether to pay for it personally or through your employer (business)? Is there a will, healthcare proxy, living will, advanced directive, DNR, or durable power of attorney for you, your significant other, parents, or children? If applicable, are satisfied with the guardian selections as to who will care for your loved ones? Are your investments easily accessible (liquid) if needed?

Information + Action + Fortitude = Results

Obviously, any bucket list can be extensive and different. Each individual needs to take an accounting of their personal, professional and business needs and act accordingly. Establishing a list of priorities and related action steps is a good start. However, without a plan in place the sad truth is that missed opportunities or potential pitfalls should a fortuitous event occur could become a major personal and financial mess. Thankfully, with prudent planning and working with knowledgeable financial, legal, and accounting professionals, potentially known and unforeseen pitfalls may be avoided or mitigated.

As a doctor, you strive to serve the needs of your patients with excellent skill and care in conjunction with the support of your selected healthcare team. A similar mantra exists when working closely with a Certified Financial Planner professional. Whether health or financial related, do no harm remains paramount especially to those who honor their fiduciary responsibility. Whether patient or client, working with a professional who understands their goals can make the process seem seamless and reassuring. Mutual trust is key and important!

Never be afraid to ask for help, as necessary tasks often may appear daunting and unmanageable. With 2015 upon us, what action steps have you established to move from “shoulda, coulda, woulda” to “I came, I saw, I conquered”? The choice is yours, now act on it!

H. William Wolfson, DC, FICC, MS, MPASSM, is a financial consultant and advisor. After passing the rigorous Certified Financial Planner™ examination, Dr. Wolfson obtained a Master of Science in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning. He was subsequently awarded by the College a Master Planner Advanced Studies. Dr. Wolfson is a member of the Financial Planning Association (FPA). Dr. Wolfson retired after 27 years of practice and remains active volunteering his time to the continued education and success of colleagues. Dr. Wolfson may be contacted for consultation at drhwwolfson@gmail.com and view all his published articles at https://www.linkedin.com/pub/h-william-bill-wolfson/14/a55/226.

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