Why financial planning needs to change in 2021

12,000 years ago, our hunter-gatherer ancestors began to think differently. Hunting and gathering was a painstaking and dangerous process that yielded short term results and often left them hungry. They tried their hand at farming and their food supply became relatively more predictable, if they planned ahead. Their efforts also yielded surpluses that they could trade for other things they needed. In the currency of crops and livestock, they established successful financial plans!

Fast forward to 1979 when the software program Visicalc was introduced for the Apple II. It was followed by the more successful Lotus 123 in 1983 and Excel in 1985. These spreadsheet programs and subsequent more formal financial planning programs helped accelerate the financial planning profession. They allowed financial practitioners to quickly build net worth and cash-flow statements, retirement income projections, and tax calculations. Most importantly, we received carefully bound financial plans that would proudly sit on our bookshelves! They lacked specific guidance in what we needed to do and we rarely followed the plan.

The missing ingredients were intentional conversations, interactive financial planning experiences and systems for taking action toward the goals that matter to us.

Throughout 2020 COVID-19 gave some financial advisors the time to take a deep breath (pardon the irony) and rethink how we deliver financial planning experiences that help people reach their goals. The year also gave us and our clients an opportunity to learn and better implement newer technology.

Here are three pieces of technology that are helping transform the financial planning experience so people can better achieve their goals:

  1. Zoom. Zoom video conferencing has worked better than most of us expected. It allows us to avoid traffic, bad weather, and we save time that we can now spend doing the things we love! Everything we did physically face to face and on paper, we can now do digitally and safely!
  2. Interactive Financial Planning Software. People can now begin the financial planning process from their smartphones, tablets, or desktop computers. With the click of a button, they can also involve a qualified financial planner. Combined with Zoom screen-sharing, the client can walk through a highly visual planning experience without the confusion of older financial planning programs.
  3. Client dashboards. Old school financial planning recommendation lists can now be replaced with client dashboards. These allow both client and financial planner to see the progress as they move from the “Action” list to the “Done” list. Clients and advisors communicate with each other on this platform as the work gets done, step by step. This works far better than endless emails, texts, and phone calls while providing an accountable audit trail.

2021 provides us all the opportunity to reset our formerly frustrating financial planning experiences. If we don’t, we risk compromising the goals that really matter to us. The key is to find advisors who have evolved and kept pace with these rapidly changing times.