Punxsutawney Phil and your Financial Planner
Today marks Groundhog Day, the only day of the year where we relinquish our meteorological forecasting to a precocious rodent. Punxsutawney Phil, the famed groundhog who annually graces us with his presence at Gobbler’s Knob, helps determine whether we’re in store for 6 more weeks of Winter or if Spring is on its way. You might be asking, what does this have to do with financial planning?
The short answer: everything! Phil, despite his strong sense of animal intuition, can’t account for every event that may happen when he provides his forecast, just like your planner can’t predict unforeseen events in your future. However, unlike Phil, your financial planner doesn’t just scurry underground after a missed forecast. Instead, we’re prepared to pivot and guide, regardless of the change in weather.
Unforeseen changes and events impact a client’s plan and occasionally call for a rapid shift in strategy. We identified a few unanticipated events that cause financial plans to change in light of new facts or realities:
Does this one sound familiar? How many financial planners out there predicted a virus would soon upend everything their clients know? When the pandemic happened, we were quick to review how this would affect our clients. We absorbed the CARES Act and reached out to hundreds of households about pausing their Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) if they didn’t need the cash, pointing business owners to Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) resources, and assisting others in navigating unemployment benefits and options. Where many saw chaos and uncertainty, we sought out the opportunities.
Death or Disability
We pride ourselves on the ability to help clients think and plan for future worst-case scenarios. This comes in the form of reviewing goals, limiting risk through insurance, and making sure proper estate plans are in order. Still, there are times where death or catastrophic injury happen completely out of the blue. Whereas last meeting we may have helped a couple plan how to fund a home remodel and their grandkids’ 529 plans, one devastating accident can turn the next review to how we replace lost income, claim or consolidate assets, and, after adequate time for grief and healing, review the survivor’s estate plan. It’s not fun or easy to grapple with these possibilities, but a good planner instills the importance of planning for the worst no matter your age or stage.
While marital strife may simmer for some time, couples can do a good job of hiding it around their financial planner. A divorce that may have felt preordained for months or years can come as a shock to a planner. After all, who plans for a divorce ahead of time? With all the financial details involved, an unexpected separation puts planners to the test, making sure clients have a new and detailed plan for how to move forward, especially if they had little or no family financial involvement. Whereas we were planning for a joint retirement with pensions, IRAs, and Social Security for two people, now we have to plan around alimony schedules, split 401ks, finding new housing, and tax filing changes. We take pride in putting in the time to make sure a client’s new reality can support their changing goals and dreams, whether we’re caught off-guard or not.
If you’re interested in seeing how a groundhog financial planner can help you plan ahead for all of life’s “weather events”, then contact your Johnson Bixby planner today or call our office to set up an introductory call to learn more about how we plan it so you can live it.
Written By Zach Reuter, CFP®