Your Client Guide: Top 10 Financial Planning Strategies for 2014

The FPA of San Francisco keys on planning, tax changes saving

January 7, 2014 – SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Financial Planning Association (FPA) of San Francisco announced today the top 10 financial planning strategies for individuals to consider for 2014. Ranging from developing a comprehensive financial plan to rebalancing portfolios, these tips will enable investors to begin 2014 on the right track.

#1. Start Today!

The New Year is a great opportunity to make a fresh start taking control of your financial future, but there is no need to wait. Start by reviewing your financial plan. If you don’t already have one, make a plan. You’ll want to analyze your asset base, earning potential, and spending. Additionally, you’ll want to review your goals. Are they still attainable? A professional financial planner has the knowledge and the tools to calculate what it will take for you to reach your goals while helping you manage your finances.

#2. Discuss Your Goals.

Once you’ve revisited your financial goals, written them down clearly and with a time line, you should talk about them with your family. You could include your spouse, older children or other loved ones who may be affected by these goals. Getting all involved on board with the plan and any changes that may have to be made can greatly help in achieving your goals.

#3. Maximize Your Retirement Contributions.

One way to provide the money you will need in the future is to increase your contributions to your retirement accounts. Review your current payroll deductions into your 401(k) and your IRA contributions and see if you can increase the contribution amount towards this year’s contribution limits. If you haven’t already maxed out yet, try even a small percentage increase until you are able to contribute more. Saving a little more now will make a big difference in the years ahead.

#4. Keep a Paper Trail in the Digital Age.

With so much of our lives conducted online and on our phones, what happens when we die and our computers and phones are locked with a password? Keeping a list of account and contact information is helpful in letting your executor settle your estate if you were to die unexpectedly. Watch for laws to continue to develop in the area of digital property.

#5. Review the Portfolio for Rebalancing Opportunities:

Given 2013’s lopsided performance of various asset classes (i.e. US and developed foreign stocks did well; most other asset classes fared poorly), chances are high that your portfolio is out of balance relative to its targets. Review the portfolio relative to its targets and rebalance where necessary.

#6. Get Smart About Charitable Gifting

A great way to donate to a charity is to use a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). Rather than making donations with cash, consider using appreciated securities to fund the DAF. The securities are then sold within the fund and this avoids capital gains tax. The assets of the account can be invested in pooled funds for tax-free growth to fund future granting. Grants can be made to any public charity as low as $50 or $100 typically. The tax deduction is taken in the year when the account is funded with the securities and avoids the need to keep a record of every receipt issued from the charities for tax purposes.

#7. Update Beneficiaries

Given 2013's lopsided performance of various asset classes (i.e. US and developed foreign stocks did well; most other asset classes fared poorly), chances are high that your portfolio is out of balance relative to its targets

Make your beneficiary statements current for 401k plans, IRAs, and life insurance policies. Remember that retirement account assets pass by beneficiary statement and not by will; the same is true for life insurance policies. This is particularly important to update if you have gone through a divorce or your previously named beneficiaries have died. Updating your beneficiaries is essential to ensure the assets pass how you want them.

#8. Create a Will

If you die “intestate”, or without a will, your probate property, which usually consists of your non-retirement assets, will pass according to state law instead of how you may have wanted to leave your assets. Probate property can also take months to settle with added costs of attorney and other fees. With a will, you have much more flexibility to name how you want to dispose of your assets. Just be sure to also let your executor know where you keep the will!

#9. Educate Yourself

This year, resolve to learn more about your own finances. Understand the different investments you have and their purpose in your portfolio. Learn about the economy and how your portfolio is affected by financial buzz words such as black swan, housing bubble and sequestration. Understanding more about what you own will not only help you feel more confident with the long-term plan you have in place, but also the dialogue you have with your financial planner will be greatly enhanced and more meaningful.

#10. See a Financial Planner

Financial planners can help you navigate your way through these perilous economic times. No one knows what the future will bring, but a good planner can provide the kind of experience and objectivity that can bring clarity to difficult financial decisions. If you have a financial planner, and you haven’t updated your plan in light of recent economic changes, it makes sense to check if you’re still on track, or if there are adjustments you can make to take advantage of new opportunities. If you need help finding a financial planner near you, visit

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About the San Francisco Chapter of the Financial Planning Association

The Mission of the Financial Planning Association of San Francisco is to advance the financial planning profession in accordance with the highest ethical and professional standards by providing education, community, networking and leadership for our Bay Area members and through them the public they serve. For more information, please visit