A good financial plan translates and organizes all areas of your finances into one central location, providing a complete snapshot of your financial situation. By knowing where you stand today, financially speaking, you can make educated decisions regarding where you want to be in the future — and how to get there.

One of the most impactful benefits of a plan is that it breaks down complex financial information in a way that is easy to understand. For example, many people are unaware of the inner workings of their current assets and overall incoming and outgoing cash flows. Completing a cash flow worksheet as part of a financial plan can be an eye-opening experience. In the long-term, a plan creates a digestible outline or reference point that families or spouse can use as a guide in the event the bread-winning spouse passes away.

A solid financial plan also provides clarity. It aids in identifying, prioritizing, preparing for and reevaluating financial goals, and dealing with unforeseen events. Saving for your children’s college fund may need to wait if a clear look at your financial picture indicates that doing so will leave you with insufficient funds during your retirement years. The good news is, with a plan in place, you can always revisit it and use it as a baseline to ensure you are on track. Or you can adjust your plan as your life situation changes. Having this roadmap at your fingertips can be especially useful during a market downturn when you may be looking for reassurance regarding your long-term stability.

At its core, the comprehensive nature of a financial plan should consider all aspects of your finances together and create a foundation on which financial decisions can be made throughout your lifetime:
 
Investments
Am I taking too much risk in my portfolio given the timeframe in which I may need the money?

Insurance
What do my survivors need today based on my current and projected net worth to cover their living expenses or the payment of estate taxes? Will I be okay if I become disabled?

Business Succession
How much do I need to sell my business for, in order to be financially independent?

Estate Planning
How should the estate be structured in order to provide for my family and other heirs? How much can I gift to my children without negatively affecting my plan?

Tax Planning
What is the most advantageous way to save for my retirement? How do I limit estate taxes?

When all is said and done, a plan makes financial questions easier to address and future issues easier to hurdle. But creating a plan does come with joint responsibility, beginning with the comprehensive information you provide to your financial planner. A firm’s advice is only as good as the information they have available to them. An open and honest relationship based on communication and trust is also key. With those pieces in place, your financial planning team will help you translate your goals into actionable planning strategies to help you get where you want to be.