Getting Started with Financial Planning & Wealth Management

Jun 13 2022

Financial planning is for everyone. When it comes to your finances, you don’t have to wait to make a plan. Identifying your goals and planning for your future is valuable at any life stage. We’ll show you how to get started on your financial plan, so you can feel more confident about the future, and we’ll share some financial planning building blocks everyone should know.

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Take Control of Your Money & Invest in Your Future with Confidence

Some people actually enjoy crunching numbers and monitoring – down to the last penny – where their money is going. While the rest of us could probably use a little help when it comes to financial planning and wealth management, everyone can benefit from some professional guidance, as well as a few tips and tricks to ensure you’re on the path to reach your goals.

To get started, here are 7 financial planning building blocks everyone should have:


1. Budget

When it comes to budgeting, we encourage you to tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went. It’s hard to control your spending and saving if you don’t track and make a plan for where your money should go. Take advantage of tools such as apps or our handy budgeting worksheet to help you get organized. Budgeting can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. The best budget is a lot like the best diet or exercise plan – it’s the one you can stick to.

If making a budget makes you queasy, this easy 3-step budget is for you!

emergency funds

2. Emergency fund

Financial advisors typically recommend keeping 3 to 6 months’ worth of expenses, or an emergency fund of at least $1,000, in an easily accessible savings account.

(If you’re struggling to figure out how to even start saving, check out this article for 2 small changes you can make now to easily save $10,000 in 4 years.)


3. Retirement savings

If your company offers a 401(k) or other qualified retirement plan, take advantage of it. Saving for retirement is very important, and contributing toward a 401(k) plan is a way for you to easily save for your future. Contribute as much as you comfortably can while meeting your other financial obligations – with a minimum goal of maximizing matching contributions from your employer. Saving early is great, but it always pays to save. The hardest part is to start, and there’s no better time than now. If you don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan, open an individual retirement account (IRA) or Roth IRA to start growing your wealth.

A good initial goal when contributing to a 401(k) plan is to start with an amount or percentage you’re comfortable with, then increase your contribution by 1% every year until you’re putting in at least 15% of your salary.

Want to take your 401(k) plan to the next level? 

5 Ways to Make the Most of Your 401(k)

A 401(k) plan is an easy way to set aside money for retirement because it happens automatically with contributions deducted directly from your paycheck. If the money doesn’t come home, you don’t need to worry about spending it. Those dollars are going straight to your plan and working to help fund your retirement goals.

While simple and automatic, it’s not entirely hands-off. Here are 5 things you can do to make the most of your 401(k) plan:

1. Contribute to the plan throughout your working career

It sounds simple, but contributing to your 401(k) plan, whether or not there is company match, is one of the most important things you can do for your financial future. The sooner you start and the more you can contribute, the larger your balance will be when you’re ready to retire.

Far too often, we hear people say they regret not taking full advantage of their retirement plan. Saving $10 each pay period in your twenties can give you a bigger bang for your buck than putting away $100 in your fifties. That’s because your money has more time to compound with the time value of money – where you’re building returns on your returns.

Sometimes life gets in the way of our best laid plans. If you’re struggling financially, and you’re relying on credit cards to cover expenses, it might be better to pause your 401(k) contributions than to go into deeper credit card debt. However, if you can afford to contribute even a small amount, you’ll still be making progress toward your retirement goals.

Note: Some people mistakenly think if the markets are down, they should stop contributing. That’s actually the worst time to stop! If it helps, when the markets are down, think of the market as being “on sale.”

2. Don’t leave “free money” on the table

If your company offers a 401(k) match, try to contribute at least enough to get the full match. Something else to consider is staying with the company until you’re fully vested. There are some company retirement plans with a vesting schedule, which means you need to be employed with the company a certain amount of time to receive their match and/or profit sharing dollars that they have contribute on your behalf. Each year you work for the company earns you an additional percentage of those matched and/or profit sharing dollars. Your personal contributions and the earnings on those dollars are always yours to take if you leave.

3. Consider the tax advantages

Some workers have the option of contributing Roth, pretax dollars (or both) to their 401(k). The main difference between Roth and a traditional pretax is when taxes are paid. Any pretax dollars you contribute from your paycheck are made before federal and state taxes. This lowers your taxable income, but it also means you have to pay taxes on the money when you withdraw it from the plan.

Roth contributions from your paycheck have already been taxed. You can withdraw Roth money once you reach the appropriate retirement age and have held the account for at least 5 years. Any earnings on that money are tax-free, so when you withdraw Roth money from the plan, you do not pay any tax, and it is not included in your taxable income. (Employer matches are still taxable at withdrawal.)

The best plan for saving in Roth or pretax depends on your time horizon and tax bracket.

4. Set it and forget it

In some cases, it is possible to take a loan from your 401(k) plan, but then the money doesn’t have a chance to grow, because you’re using it outside the plan instead of investing long-term. A hardship distribution not only deprives you of the opportunity to continue to grow funds for your future, but it is also taxed. Taking withdrawals early could result in extra taxes or penalties. If you leave your job, keep your funds in your employer’s plan, if allowed, or roll them into another 401(k) plan or rollover IRA.

5. Review your investments

To ensure your plan is invested appropriately to help you meet your goals, it’s a good idea to schedule regular “checkups” with a financial advisor. Target date and asset allocation funds, which are structured based on your age, retirement goals and risk tolerance, are helpful tools to reach your goals and maintain a diversified portfolio.



4. Insurance

Life is unpredictable. While you don’t want to spend your life worrying, it is important to be prepared. Insurance can help you prepare for the what-ifs in life.

A solid financial plan includes more than health insurance, auto insurance and homeowners insurance. You should also consider life insurance to protect your family or business during your working years and long-term care insurance, which helps cover the costs of assisted living, nursing home or in-home care.

Get an Insurance Checkup

Is your insurance coverage the best? Bell Insurance works with dozens of insurance carriers to help find you the best coverage – at the best rate – based on what you need. Get a free, no obligation quote today.

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Bell Insurance Services, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bell Bank. Products and services offered through Bell Insurance are: Not FDIC Insured | No Bank Guarantee | May Lose Value | Not a Deposit | Not Insured by Any Federal Government Agency


5. Will

A will is the most basic way to plan for your estate. It provides a framework for planning funeral arrangements, distribution of your belongings, guardians for minor children and appoints a personal representative to see that your assets are distributed appropriately. A will can also create a trust to hold assets and instruct a trustee as to how to administer and distribute those assets. A trustee may be appointed to manage assets for beneficiaries, until the beneficiaries are responsible enough to manage the assets on their own.

It is important to note that a will does not replace the need to name beneficiaries and transfer-on-death directions for your financial and retirement accounts. Plan to periodically review who you have named in your documents, as you may need to update over time due to life changes.


6. Healthcare directive

A healthcare directive appoints someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are not able to do so. Many healthcare providers offer forms to establish this and maintain in your records.


7. Financial power-of-attorney

A financial power-of-attorney appoints someone to make financial decisions if you are unable to act, such as if you’re on vacation, in another country or in the hospital.

Our experts are here to help you make sure your personal financial plan is solid. Schedule an appointment to get started.


Solidify Your Financial Plan in 5 Steps – and Just 60 Minutes

Retirement, kids’ college costs, student loan debt, mortgage, car payments, credit card bills – the list of financial obligations goes on and on. It can be overwhelming to figure out what to prioritize, but that’s where your financial advisor comes in. A holistic approach to financial planning means more than guiding you toward retirement. It means taking all of your goals into account and working with you to help you achieve them.

We’re all working toward retirement. That’s the ultimate goal, right? But planning allows you to have additional goals. If you want to retire by a certain age, buy a second home or pay for your kids’ college, those goals need to be considered with the rest of your financial plan – not as separate destinations. Everything is intertwined.

A 60-minute review with Bell is all it takes to get started. Here’s how it works:

1. Analyze debt and assets

To start, your financial planner will look at your debt and assets. After all, the best advice comes as a result of seeing the full picture of your financial situation. Sometimes small adjustments can make a big difference. It’s not only how much you’re contributing, but what you’re contributing to. Your financial planner will look at both.

 2. Explore retirement

Next, we need to think about what you want your retirement to look like. Without a plan, it’s hard to know how much is enough and what steps to take next. Someone who wants to retire early will need to save more than someone who wants to work into their 70s.

3. Consider other financial goals

Buying a second home or paying for your kids’ college at the same time you’re saving for retirement and paying down debt might seem challenging at first – until you take the time with your financial advisor to plan effective strategies to reach those goals.

4. Prepare for the eventual and the unexpected

Your financial advisor has experience planning for life events many people prefer not to think about, such as health events or death. Some of those considerations include managing risk through health, tax and estate planning by advising a plan for your needs with strategies like life insurance, long-term care insurance, gifting to others and charity and estate planning.

5. Review your plan annually

Finally, we’ll review your plan at least once a year or whenever you have a major life event, such as a career change or the birth of a child. Even a plane on autopilot needs a little correction from time to time. If you go in the wrong direction for a long period of time, it takes that much longer to get back on course.

Staying on course means staying in touch. Holding true to your annual investment portfolio review helps ensure you’re on track and have the opportunity to discuss and make adjustments if your financial strategy no longer aligns with your goals. Big events like marriage, divorce, death, the birth or adoption of a child, or a major illness can all affect your plan and need to be considered when reviewing your portfolio.

Keep in mind that an annual review is something you should do well into retirement. Even when you retire, your goals and life circumstances change, so you should continue to meet with your financial advisor at least once a year.

For many people, retirement doesn’t feel like a priority until they can see it on the horizon. Financial planning is easier the earlier you start, but Bell Bank financial planners can help you no matter where you are on your journey.


Married? Read the 3 Reasons Couples Should Meet with a Financial Advisor Together

Planning Your Financial Future Together

All too often only the spouse who handles the finances will meet with a financial advisor, but whenever possible, it’s better to meet with your advisor together. After all, financial decisions impact both spouses.

Check out the 3 big reasons couples should meet with a financial advisor together:

1. Set and stick to goals

In the financial planning process, we are going to look at goals and want to learn what’s important to each of you as well as find mutual goals. Your financial plan needs mutual commitment – which is a lot easier when you’re both part of the process.

2. Remain rational about risks

Because the stock market involves risk, if you’re both involved in the financial planning process, you’re better able to avoid making emotional or irrational mistakes if the market decreases dramatically in the short term. Market corrections are part of being a long-term investor. Having each other and your financial advisor to lean on when the markets are uncertain can help you stay the course.

3. Prepare for the worst

If one spouse handles all of the finances and that person dies, the remaining spouse might not know account numbers, login information or even where all of the accounts are located. Even if one spouse makes most of the financial decisions, it’s important for each spouse to have a good relationship with their financial advisor to know where to go and who to call.

5 Habits of Financially Successful People

1. Set Goals

Whatever your financial goals, start planning now exploring and prioritizing both long-term and short-term goals. Work with your financial advisor to determine how much you’ll need in the long run and how much to save each month to get there. Don’t be discouraged by the “sticker shock” of what you want. Even small, regular contributions can make a big impact over time.

2. Work with a Financial Planner (Even if You Watch the Stock Market)

Just like dieting or exercise can be difficult without someone to guide you, it can be tempting to cheat on your financial plan without an advisor to help you work toward your goals. A financial planner can help keep you accountable and teach you about financial strategies you may not otherwise learn.

There’s so much more to your financial plan than your current investment mix. A financial planner has access to different investment strategies you might not know or think about. For example, many people don’t consider life insurance or long-term care insurance until it’s too late. A professional will help make sure you’re thinking through all aspects of your financial plan.

Professional financial advisors stay current on the economy and the markets. They take the emotion out of investing to help you make financial decisions in your best interest.

Why Work with a Certified Financial Planner™

There are many options for financial advice, but partnering with a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) ensures you’ve made a wise choice. CFP professionals have extensive training, ongoing education and experience requirements. They have the knowledge and expertise to help you build a sound financial roadmap, adhering to the CFP Board Code of Ethics to put your best interests first.

When you’re sick, you go to the doctor. If you need legal advice, you call a lawyer. If your car breaks down, you see the mechanic. You get the picture. A CFP is an expert in personal finance. When it comes to your financial future, it’s all about connecting with someone committed to putting your interests first. CFP professionals have attained the standard of excellence in financial planning and are committed to serve your best interests to prepare you for a more secure tomorrow.

3. Get Savvy About Saving

Saving money doesn’t have to be difficult. Small sacrifices now can make a big difference later. Instead of thinking of it as a sacrifice, you can turn saving money into a game or a fun family challenge. And Bell Bank has free tools to help you – such as our free ChangeSaver™ program that helps you grow your savings by rounding up your debit card purchases.

(Get the details – including information on Bell’s ChangeSaverTM match – here.)

4. Step into Retirement

Different life stages call for different financial decisions and priorities. When you’re just entering the workforce, school loans and car payments might be top of mind. Later on, a mortgage and the cost of raising kids might come into play. At every stage of life, it’s important to make regular contributions toward your retirement plan.

5. Protect Yourself

Identity theft and imposter scams are growing problems. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives hundreds of thousands of consumer complaints of both each year, and many cases are not reported. Protect yourself by learning about common scams and how to avoid phishing schemes. If you’re a Bell customer, take advantage of our free fraud-fighting tools, such as mobile and online banking alerts and the free CardValet® mobile app to control debit card usage and spending on the go!

(Learn more or find out where to download the app here.)


Do You Make These Common Investment Mistakes?

Two common investment mistakes could disrupt the pursuit of your financial goals.

1. Neglecting to make a solid investment plan

Before you invest, ask yourself:

  • What are my goals?
  • When do I want to retire?
  • Where do I want to allocate my assets?
  • How much risk am I willing to accept?
  • How will I measure success?

Then meet with a financial advisor to come up with a plan of action. Your financial advisor will help you stay focused on the things you can control in your financial plan, such as how much and where to save.

2. Giving too much weight to financial media

There’s so much information out there, and much of it is short-term advice or opinion. It’s not an educational tool, and it can prevent you from sticking to your plan.

If you have a solid plan in place, and you know what you’re trying to accomplish, you don’t have to worry about noise in the financial media. Remember, chaos and uncertainty might be good for ratings, but they don’t help you form and stick to your financial plan. Instead, they might prompt emotional, knee-jerk reactions. Remember: Most global events don’t change anything in your portfolio. A lot of financial media focuses on the short-term, but most people are long-term investors.

If you have a plan and stick to it, you take the stress and emotion out of investing, to focus on your long term goals.

Want to make sure you’re on the right path toward reaching your financial goals? Let Bell help you invest in your future.


This article has been written for the general information of clients and friends of Bell Bank. It is not intended, nor may it be relied upon, as tax or legal advice with respect to any matter. This article also cannot be used by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by the Internal Revenue Service or other taxing authority.

Investing and wealth management products are not FDIC insured, have no bank guarantee, may lose value, are not a deposit and are not insured by any federal government agency.

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