“If you don’t sit down and systematically put together a plan, saying my goal is this … whether that goal is six months or 20 years, if you don’t break that goal down into edible bites, you’re never going to eat the elephant,” said Don McDonald, owner of McDonald Wealth Management in Rome.
And a frequent roadblock is a lack of communication between spouses, who don’t sit down and take the time to develop those goals.
“That’s one thing we’ve really tried to educate people on,” said Dan Owens of Owens Financial Group, 251 Technology Parkway. “Set goals, then your investments and all your other assets have to be in line to accomplish those goals.”
Ernie Smith, a former city commissioner who is also a co-founder of DLS Financial, used a government analogy.
“Just like anything, you’ve got to plan for a disaster. We’ve got a great emergency management team here in Rome and Floyd County, and that’s what they do,” he said. “The fire department, they plan all the time. They train. So that’s what you’ve got to do — you’ve got to plan for things that you know are going to happen as well as those things that you don’t know are going to happen.”
Owens and McDonald both said they are pleased to see a change in financial planning trends from the Baby Boom generation to the 20-somethings of today.
“They don’t mind living at home until they are 30. They don’t mind driving an old car,” McDonald said. “I’ve got kids in their 20s coming to see me to open up retirement accounts.”
It’s a positive sign when young people are saving and investing more, instead of going into debt to buy big homes and other items, Owens agreed.
“Someone has educated them on what happened over the years, buying those big assets and going into debt, so we’re seeing kind of a reverse trend there,” he said.
With all of the concerns expressed in recent years about the future of Social Security, Smith said it is very important for people to have other resources as they advance into their retirement years.
Owens said one of the biggest mistakes he sees people make is withdrawing money from their retirement plans before they are 59½ years old.
“One, it’s a bad tax move — but it also keeps you from reaching your retirement goals,” he said.
Don Ash, of Estate Planners of Georgia on Broad Street, said another important aspect of financial planning goes beyond the balance sheet.
“We think it’s very important to have all of your powers of attorney, wills, trusts updated for the future along with your financial plan,” Ash said. “The earlier you start planning, the better off you are. It really matters.”
Ash also warned that high-risk investment and fee-based services could take away from the bottom line.