Cash flow plans are not something you can set and forget. Any time there are changes in a client’s life that significantly affect their income, committed expenses, assets or debts, their cash flow plan must be updated. Adjusting your client’s debt and spending strategies as life events come up is a crucial skill. Below are just a few things your clients may have to deal with as their lives evolve, along with some suggested concepts to employ in response to these phases of life.
From weddings to other significant milestones, big celebrations can come with an even bigger price tag. Most of the time, these types of celebrations shouldn’t come as a surprise, so there is time to save. It’s important to take advantage of that lead time and create a short-term goal for major celebrations. One idea is to start an automated transfer on a monthly basis to ensure the cost is covered without taking the client’s finances off track. Also, help them see their options by making a copy of their current plan and update it with the savings costs required to cover their planned celebration. This may mean that your client can’t afford the other short-term goal they are saving for just yet.
Buying a new home
Whether a client is considering buying their first home, upgrading or downsizing, it’s easy to model the impact of the changes by making a copy of their current cash flow plan and adjusting it based on the new costs. Help your clients see the results of a potential new choice before they make a decision. You can make multiple copies and run various comparisons, so your client has all the vantage points they need to make their choice. You can do this even earlier in the process. If they are buying their first home or upgrading, help them set a realistic limit on how much they can actually afford when it comes to a new mortgage compared to what they are approved for, which are often vastly different amounts. Upgrading isn’t the only option for clients buying a new home; your clients could also consider downsizing at any stage of life. Be careful though. Help clients ensure that they also experience a financial downsize as well. If a client moves to an area with lower housing prices, or reduces their total mortgage by moving to a smaller home, make sure you give their new found money a job!
New family members
A new addition to the family is an exciting time in life, but it can also create financial stress. Help clients avoid bad surprises by adjusting their cash flow plan in preparation for the new arrival. You can make a copy of their current cash flow plan and model income changes during various benefits periods. It may be necessary to push out some short-term goals, adjust regular committed expenses and reduce the client’s spendable. Don’t forget that when a parent is on leave, they may be able to keep their group benefits. But they’ll likely have to cover their share of their benefit premiums and, in many cases, the employer premiums too! Be sure to check with your client on group RRSP contributions and how those work when they are on maternity or paternity leave.
Go one step further and model out their return to full-time work and child care costs. This may mean that some goal adjustments are much longer term than their planned leave period.
If your client is carrying more than one debt, it may make sense to look at refinancing to better organize their debts. You should also make sure that they are optimized for the maximum payment to their principle without taking their overall plan off track. Make one or more copies of the client’s current cash flow strategy to run various scenarios on how their refinancing options may impact their cash flow. You can save your client a lot of trouble, and ensure they are not wasting an extra cent on interest unnecessarily.
Losing a job
Losing a job is one of those life events that are more likely to come as a surprise to your clients. During their working years, it’s one of the most important reasons to keep emergency savings at 4-6x their monthly committed and spendable. Make sure your clients know to reach out to you if there have been any changes to their income.
In the event of a lost income, you want to help the client avoid depleting their savings any faster than they have to. First, make a copy of the current plan, remove their income, add in any severance or employment benefits, and see just how much they’d need to draw from their savings to keep all goals on track. Depending on the amount of income lost or the size of any payouts from their former employer, the client may be able to get along without their income for far longer than the savings alone could last. Consider helping your clients adjust the timelines on various goals to give them the time they need to get back on track. Be sure to restart any contributions that have been turned off as soon as the client is back to work.
Significant market volatility generally only affects a cash flow plan in the decumulation phase of a client’s financial life. If a client has assets that are still exposed to the market and they experience a reduction in the value of their portfolio during a period where they need to make a lump sum withdrawal, maintaining an empty line of credit can be just what they need. The client borrows to cover the lump sum expense until their portfolio recovers. Then, they can withdraw the funds and pay off the line of credit.
Secured lines of credit are likely to be the least expensive to carry the interest costs until it can be paid back. If a client deploys this strategy, create a copy of their current plan and add the new carrying costs of the debt to perform a stress test on their cash flow. This way, if the client isn’t able to carry all of the debt they’d need to take to cover the expense, they have a chance to reduce what they are willing to put towards that lump sum cost. Or, they can adjust other goals and expenses to allow for it.
Taking advantage of opportunities
FOMO is real. It can be tempting to jump on promising financial opportunities, but often these cost money. Help clients temper their excitement by ensuring they can see the likely impact of chasing down an option, even if it seems like a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Make a copy of the client’s current cash flow plan, and adjust it if they withdraw assets or have higher carrying costs on debt, which might come along with this opportunity. If the client is sure they want to go ahead, but their cash flow plan will be irrevocably damaged, help them flush out further options. Consider pushing off or replacing other short-term goals if this is more important to them. Maybe they could work longer, or reduce committed expenses or their spendable amount to make it work. Help your client see what tradeoffs they have to choose from before they make their choice.
Winton of the future
You can also set up a second Winton household account by using another email to let the client create an alternate financial profile. This can be helpful as clients near retirement or other major changes that cause significant shifts in their finances. Let them flush out how their income and their expenses might look. Helping clients envision their future in this way can make it much easier to encourage them to stay on track. Check out our on-demand webinar: Cash flow strategies for retired clients.
Life happens, and this is why cash flow plans are such a crucial requirement of a complete financial plan. It doesn’t matter how well you help a client build or protect their wealth if it can’t survive life’s twists and turns. Cash flow planning is all about helping people predict the consequences of their life choices before they make them. Whether they are reacting to something they can’t control, or trying to plan for something they can, don’t let your clients leap before they look at the impact on their cash flow.
CacheFlo is a financial education company that builds eLearning and tools to help financial professionals and individuals make behaviour-based changes, which allow them to get more life from their money. We want to make it easier for people to predict the impact of their financial choices before they make them.
About the Certified Cash Flow Specialist (CCS) program
CCS professionals go through enhanced cash flow-based training to develop the skill set to deliver behaviour-based cash flow advice. They start the financial planning process with a cash flow plan to genuinely help their clients get more life from their money.