Arrow Icon
blog header pale blue image blog header abstract shape

Heart of Advice

Insights and best practices for successful financial planning engagement

left arrow Back to All Articles

Two Workflows for the Delivery of an Initial Financial Plan

Joe Buhrmann February 27, 2024

Implementing workflows in your financial planning firm will ensure that your team delivers a consistent experience to each and every one of your clients.

Previously, we have discussed a simple workflow for acquiring a new client and three efficient workflows for onboarding new clients. Here, we are going to outline two workflows for delivering an initial financial plan to a new client.

While every financial professional has their own personal way of approaching this task, these two workflows can be used as a starting point and can be adapted to meet your needs.

Preparing a Simple, Goals-Based Plan

If your client has straightforward needs and is focused on achieving a specific financial goal, this financial planning workflow is an ideal place to start. It offers a simplified planning experience that allows you to assess your client’s current state and quickly build a plan. While I will focus on how you can use this workflow for clients who are focused on retirement planning, it can also be adapted for use with younger clients who are focused on other goals, such as buying a home or paying off debt.

Step 1: Ask a Few Simple Questions

If your client has been onboarded and linked their accounts in your technology platform, you are only a couple of questions away from a quick and simple retirement assessment:

  1. What’s your income?
  2. What percentage are you contributing to your 401k and what is the employer match?

If your client has not linked their accounts yet, you will also want to ask how much they have saved in their retirement accounts already. For this exercise, you don’t need to know about how the assets are allocated. Just ask, “If we added up all your IRAs and 401(k)s, how much would that be?”

Step 2: Conduct an Assessment

You now have some significant facts that will help with retirement planning. Your client’s salary will be used to estimate Social Security benefits and to assume a retirement income need. If you have not yet discussed a retirement age with your client, you may assume a retirement age, such as age 65. Lastly, you know how many retirement assets they have already accumulated and how much they are currently saving.

With all of that information, you can evaluate where they’re at and determine whether they’re on track or falling short. Leveraging financial planning software that builds a simple financial plan with a few key data inputs will help you complete this task efficiently and effectively.

Step 3: Discuss Your Assessment

Once you have conducted your initial assessment, sit down with your client and have a simple conversation around your findings. If they are falling short of their retirement number, you can have a high-level discussion about saving more, spending less, and/or retiring later. This also gives you the opportunity to dig deeper into what they want their retirement to look like, which will help guide the creation of their simple financial plan.

Step 4: Build a Simple Financial Plan

Together with your client, you can now develop a simple financial plan that they can commit to and take action on. For a retirement planning-focused client, their simple plan may include how much they can spend, when they can retire, and when to start taking social security. Encourage them to take control of their journey and track their progress by utilizing financial planning technology that has a client portal.

A Simple Plan Is a Plan, Not the Plan

The creation of a simple goals-based plan isn’t the end of planning–it’s only the beginning. A simple plan will evolve over time as the client’s needs become more comprehensive. If you will be working with this client on an ongoing basis, you can use what you learned in your previous discussions to help determine what you will accomplish together next.

For example, if your client is focused on retirement, then a natural next step is to review their investments and evaluate whether their portfolio is positioned for success. If you are working with younger clients who have children, a discussion about college education planning may be appropriate.

Preparing a Complex Plan

This financial advisor workflow is an ideal starting point for clients who are looking for a comprehensive financial plan that encompasses all their important lifestyle, retirement, and legacy goals. Depending on your client’s needs, they may want their plan to include things like cash flow analysis, retirement planning, risk management, tax planning, and/or estate planning.

Step 1: Understand Your Client’s Needs and Goals

Start the conversation by asking open-ended questions that will help you understand your client’s finances, goals, and values. As part of this discussion, you want to zero in on their most important goals so you can determine what to prioritize first in their financial plan. Because you won’t be able to address all of your client’s needs and goals at once, you want to capture their big goals so you know where to start.

Step 2: Prepare an Initial Plan and Recommendations

All relevant accounts and data should have been entered into your financial planning technology as part of your client’s onboarding. With that data and the understanding of your client’s goals and values you gained in the previous step, you can start preparing an initial financial plan.

The initial plan doesn’t have to be a 300-page comprehensive financial plan with 30 recommendations. Besides being time consuming for you to create, it will be overwhelming for your client to review. When faced with 30 recommendations, they could get so overwhelmed that they don’t implement any at all. You may want to start with 2 or 3 key recommendations that will have the most impact upon the plan, or start with a couple of “easy wins” for the client to gain traction and momentum.

Step 3: Present Initial Plan and Recommendations to Clients

Effectively presenting a financial plan will ensure that your client is better engaged in the planning process and motivated to take the next step. During your presentation, be sure to connect the plan and your recommendations back to your original discussions by addressing their “why.” This shows your client that they have been heard and that you are tailoring your recommendations to their situation.

In addition, remember that this isn’t just a presentation–it’s also a conversation. Your client will feel more committed to their plan if they have a hand in building it. One way to help your client feel involved is by utilizing financial planning software that lets you do interactive scenario planning. You can walk through and discuss scenarios together, which will help your client understand how their actions will impact their financial future and make decisions about which recommendations to implement.

When you wrap up the meeting, summarize the full conversation and leave the client with a few action items to complete based on your discussion.

Step 4: Continue to Build the Plan Incrementally

Following the preparation of an initial financial plan, you will likely meet with your client several times to inform the continued development of their plan. Your goal is to increase the complexity of their plan over time until it encompasses all of their goals and needs. If you focused first on retirement planning and wealth management, your next step may be to discuss topics such as insurance, education planning, or estate planning. A well-constructed client service calendar will help you build out your client’s plan in a systematic way and ensure that no part of it falls through the cracks.

Keep Your Clients Engaged in Planning

Delivering an initial financial plan to a new client is just the start of your relationship. Keeping your clients engaged in their financial planning journey is critical to their success. Maintaining client engagement over time depends on motivating them to follow through on the recommendations you’ve given.

Learn how to motivate your clients to act in their own best interests in my blog, “Nudging Financial Planning Clients in the Right Direction.”

DISCLAIMER: The eMoney Advisor Blog is meant as an educational and informative resource for financial professionals and individuals alike. It is not meant to be, and should not be taken as financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. Those seeking professional advice may do so by consulting with a professional advisor. eMoney Advisor will not be liable for any actions you may take based on the content of this blog.

Image of Joe Buhrmann
About the Author

Joe serves as a Senior Financial Planning Practice Management Consultant at eMoney Advisor. With more than three decades in the financial services industry, Joe aligns his know-how and passion to help firms of all sizes increase usage, adoption, and engagement through a modern financial planning experience. He leverages his expertise and supports internal departments across the enterprise, helping Communications, Marketing, Relationship Management, and Sales. Joe attended Illinois State University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Applied Computer Science and his MBA.

You may also be interested in...

empowered client shopping with mobile client portal

Empowering Financial Wellness: How Client Portals Reduce Financial Anxiety and Transform Client Relationships

Feelings of financial insecurity have surged to an all-time high among Americans, with one-third (33 percent) reporting that they do… Read More

A financial advisor holding a review meeting with clients.

Optimize Client Reviews with Technology and Finpsych

Mid-year and annual reviews are common deliverables in any financial professional’s service calendar. Regular reviews are critical because financial planning… Read More

value of financial planning

How to Illustrate the Value of Financial Planning

Has a prospect ever asked you, “What is the true value of financial planning?” It’s a common question, and it… Read More

eBook: The New Advisor Value Proposition

Download our latest eBook and learn how top advisors are combining Fintech and FinPsych for superior client outcomes.

Download Now

Sign up to have the most popular Heart of Advice posts delivered to your inbox monthly.

Heart of Advice by eMoney Advisors

Welcome to
Heart of Advice

a new source of expert insights for
financial professionals.

Get Started

Tips specific to the eMoney platform can be found in
the eMoney
application, under Help, eMoney Advisor Blog.