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Beneficial In The Good Times And Essential In The Bad Times

Mark Steffe is the President/CEO of First Command Financial Services.

It’s clear rising inflation and stock market fluctuations have created tumultuous conditions for Americans, regardless of income. Economists’ predictions of a recession may prompt some individuals to be reactive with their investments. This knee-jerk behavior makes me question if these individuals have a solid financial plan because reflexive responses to dramatic changes at uncertain times are the antithesis of thoughtful planning. Now is when a financial plan is essential because it gives individuals the confidence to know they’re on the right path to navigate rocky waters. It’s a life preserver for anyone who is nervous about their financial future because it takes into consideration the here and now and the future—something that will withstand market chaos.

The good news is that life expectancy for Americans has increased to nearly 80 years. The bad news is that many don’t have the financial savings to carry them through retirement. While life throws us uncontrollable curve balls, you can plan to pivot at these unforeseen moments and work toward financial security throughout life. As Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” This is when having a financial plan tailored to an individual’s or family’s situation and goals and following it through unpredictable times is beneficial. Trust that the financial plan can weather the storm.

Your approach to finances dictates much of how you live—your home, cars, travel, college education, family size and retirement. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College estimates that nearly half of working-age households are on track to fall more than 10% short of the income they’ll need to retire comfortably, which amounts to a collective shortfall of about $7 trillion. Unfortunately, many people don’t have a financial plan, or a coach to guide them to successfully follow it.

When the nation’s military families first come to us, most do not have a financial plan. This lack of financial planning can lead to significant financial pitfalls—especially among members of the military who have modest incomes, coupled with an unpredictable life that can include deployment, frequent relocations, military spouse employment challenges or combat death. Regardless of what life stage our clients come to us at, we create a financial plan that helps them get financially squared away to retirement and beyond. Based on my team’s specialized work with these families and my personal experience in financial planning overall, here’s a critical misunderstanding that I’d like to highlight.

It’s never too early or too late to have a plan.

Following a financial plan sooner rather than later is ideal, especially as Americans live longer. We help our clients, young and old, understand the benefit of a solid financial plan and coaching to pursue their financial goals and lifestyle into retirement. Everyone—regardless of income—deserves a tailored plan and guidance in their pursuit of financial security.

It’s more than a plan on paper.

In my 30-plus years in the industry, I’ve seen how a financial plan and coaching are a road map for service members that provides them with the confidence to pursue their near-term and long-term financial goals. A sound financial plan begins with a balanced strategy and, when you’re ready, coaching from a financial advisor. Advisors can help by utilizing their expertise to help reduce debt, build wealth and pursue financial security early in your career, to retirement and beyond.

While there are nuances to each approach, a good financial plan will cover three key components: emergency savings for short-term needs, investing for long-term needs and securing life insurance to protect loved ones from financial hardships. A financial plan is dynamic and flexible, factoring in planned and unplanned life events. For example, perhaps a client planned to have a child, but they did not plan for their child to require special care. A financial plan is built around the idea that life and other ancillary events will shift it, but it can flex as needed.

The value of a financial plan coupled with coaching.

A financial plan can be enhanced when it is accompanied by a financial advisor who works with clients to help them adjust behaviors and hold themselves accountable for following the plan. Financial advisors need to have a holistic view of their clients’ lives, including their current expenses and plans for the future. Good advisors develop a comfort level and build trust with their clients, which helps them through the good and bad times.

The majority of First Command’s clients are military members. We take pride in the fact that more than 80% of our financial advisors are veterans or military spouses. They have a deep knowledge of military benefits and can provide sound guidance that’s particularly relevant to service members.

It’s during times of turmoil that financial plans and financial advisors can be the most beneficial. You know that the stock market fluctuates. However, as a client, you shouldn’t feel panic at these moments of market instability. You should know from working with your financial advisor that your investments are long-term and will weather the financial storm. A financial plan provides peace of mind and confidence knowing that clients have charted a path to follow. While there often are bumps along the way, a strong financial plan and a relationship with a financial advisor that fits you will help individuals at all stages of life pursue financial security—especially as many of us live longer.

©2022 First Command Financial Services, Inc. parent of First Command Brokerage Services, Inc (Member SIPC, FINRA), First Command Advisory Services, Inc., First Command Insurance Services, Inc. and First Command Bank. Securities products and brokerage services are provided by First Command Brokerage Services, Inc., a broker-dealer. Financial planning and investment advisory services are provided by First Command Advisory Services, Inc., an investment adviser. Insurance products and services are provided by First Command Insurance Services, Inc. Banking products and services are provided by First Command Bank (Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender). Securities are not FDIC insured, have no bank guarantee and may lose value. A financial plan, by itself, cannot assure that retirement or other financial goals will be met.

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