Learning a few lessons from planning professionals

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Published: April 30,2007

When it comes to financial planning, regrets are commonplace. Even professionals who deal with financial planning every day lament the “things I know now I wish I’d known years ago.”

Germaine Weldon of Gulfport says that includes everything. “Everyday I learn new information. Everyday I have new experiences,” she said. “I know considerably more now than I did five years ago, 10 years ago and 20 years ago. I think that is why you see successful older people as financial advisors and planners; they have a lot more experience and knowledge than the kid right out of school.”

A CPA and financial planner with AVL WealthCare, Weldon is impressed with planners in their 60s and 70s who are not interested in retiring. “The first time I went to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants annual conference, I was struck by these vibrant, intelligent people who love their occupation and love helping people. Their clients trust and rely on them because of their age and wisdom,” she recalls.

An experience in his own family put things into perspective for Randy Mascagni, a certified financial planner and president of Mascagni & Company. His father and father’s two brothers were in a real estate partnership together.

“My father passed away in December of 1977 and there was no buy/sell agreement nor any life insurance to buy out my family’s interest in the partnership,” he said. “It took 28 years, family friction, and a significant loss in asset value for me to unravel all the problems of the lack of planning on my father’s part with his partnership. Actually, experiencing all this and helping with his estate caused me to become a certified financial planner.”

Avoiding regret

Mascagni hears plenty of people in the 60-plus age category say they wish they’d come to see him 30 years ago. “Like anything else, many of these people have regrets. They say they would have saved more, their investments would have grown better and they would be more ready for retirement years,” he said.

Ben Windham, an attorney with the firm of Watkins Ludlam Winter & Stennis, has observed that most people assume that financial planning is only for wealthy individuals.

“That assumption is incorrect, in fact, almost everyone needs some form of financial planning,” he said. “The key to financial planning is to find a competent professional you can trust and one that has the same investment philosophy you do. In most instances, financial planning is not necessarily planning for your future, but rather it is planning for your family’s future.”

Plan, plan and more planning are three things Tara May wishes she and everyone else had known years ago about financial planning. “I am a strong proponent of planning for the future,” the CPA with HORNE LLP says. “Most people don’t understand the need to plan for their financial future. The sooner you start, the better off you’ll be.”

Learning through the process

Danny Williams is a partner in Woodridge Capital Portfolio Management and president of the Financial Planning Association. His experience indicates that the true benefits from financial planning come from actually going through the process.

“As I have seen, most people spend more time planning for their two-week vacation than they do for potentially 30 plus years in retirement,” he says. “Our society has gotten so busy just handling the day-to-day stuff, that long range planning seems to get pushed to the back burner. Ultimately, important issues don’t get looked at until, often time, there is a crisis or it’s too late.”

By going through the process, he means that clients take the time to pull together a list of all their financial documents and give serious thought to current expenses/lifestyle and future expenses/lifestyle. In doing so, they have the opportunity to prioritize their lives.

“By getting all of this information together, people get a reality check on just where they are, as well as what they need to do to have a lifestyle to which they will have grown accustomed,” he said. “My belief is that once someone goes through the financial planning process, they will realize some of the limitations.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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