Making Cents: Making the most out of your annual review
By: John P. Napolitano, CFP®, CPA, PFS, MST
Your review meetings with your financial advisor should be about a lot more than your portfolio. Anyone can review investments and tell you why they went up or down. That service alone is not often worth the price of admission.
A productive review meeting will have a detailed agenda to ensure that your whole financial plan is on track. This will include a review of all aspects included in the original financial plan. The items to go over should include a risk review, from your property and casualty coverage to your life, health, disability, and long term care coverage. It should include a retirement plan review and a forecast for your financial independence. An analysis of the estate plans to determine if the current plan is up to date. It should include a conversation about tax planning. While most people focus on tax planning at year-end and again when filing their returns, a tax savvy way of life would cause your advisor to be vigilant for ways to efficiently manage your tax situation. And, of course, an investment discussion is imperative.
Why would these items need eyes on them at all times? To put it simply, life happens and things change. Just like any other plan, if you monitor it closely you’ll be able to make mid-course adjustments to avoid gaps and get back on track as soon as possible.
In times of volatility, as we’re now experiencing with COVID-19, perhaps a dedicated conversation about your portfolio is warranted, but that conversation should’ve been had many times already throughout your tenure as a client. In the review meetings about your portfolio, your advisor should discuss your risk tolerance, how the portfolio is invested in terms of the level of risk being taken, the long term objectives of the portfolio and the consequences of volatile extremes on your financial objectives. In short, know the range of possibilities with the level of risk you’ve taken and don’t get too cute trying to time when things will go up or down. And if your advisor thinks they have a handle on when things will happen… either give me their name or fire them immediately.
It is during volatile times when this thinking comes front and center. Investors look at their statements and may ask “did I need to pay you to lose money”? In some cases yes, and in some cases no.
The case for no is when all you get is investment advice. Today’s top advisors act as fiduciaries, and are actually obligated to advise you on everything reasonably included in a financial planning engagement as discussed above. That is, if your advisor is capable and willing to spend that much time with you. Understand, for example, that many advisors are constrained by their firms when it comes to giving fiduciary advice regarding tax planning and insurance. If all you get is pressure to buy another policy or another exotic investment, it may be time to move on.
John P. Napolitano CFP®, CPA is CEO of US Wealth Management in Braintree, MA. Visit JohnPNapolitano on LinkedIn or uswealthnapolitano.com. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. John Napolitano is a registered principal with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through US Financial Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. US Financial Advisors and US Wealth Management are separate entities from LPL Financial. He can be reached at 781-849-9200.