Comprehensive Financial Planning is a process which CFP® professionals use to create a personalized financial plan which helps clients understand their financial situation and to recommend actions which will maintain or improve that situation. This 6-step process results in our advisors having a maximal understanding of your financial goals, current situation, and possible alternatives that will help you attain those goals.

Comprehensive Financial Planning begins with listening, and our financial advisors are great listeners! We begin by talking to you about your hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Even if you aren’t exactly sure what these are, after a few in-depth discussions with a Cereus Financial Advisor, we are confident that you will be able to articulate them and even prioritize them. We are committed to providing unfaltering personal attention and expert, objective advice.

Comprehensive Financial Planning follows
6 distinctive steps:


Step 1: Establishing and defining the client-planner engagement

You are thinking of hiring a financial planner for a reason. You want to get something out of the engagement. At the same time, you want to understand what a financial planner can do for you, what his/her background is, how that planner is paid, and how much the planner gets paid. The planner needs to understand your expectations and whether he/she can actually help you.  This step usually involves the client meeting with the planner, although in today’s age that meeting might in-person, or via video conference. Often the planner will ask for some detailed information to be available at the meeting such as the previous year’s tax return. The planner will always give the you his/her ADV2 brochure (filed with the SEC) as well as the company privacy policy.

Assuming both you and the planner agree to go forward with the engagement, the planner will prepare a financial planning contract. You will have to sign this contract and make the payment indicated before the engagement moves forward.

Step 2: Gathering Client Data

Your financial goals are the most important data items which need to be collected. Sometimes your goals might simply be “retire comfortably at 65”. Sometimes your goals may be more complex: “Make a major donation to fund a new wing of our local hospital”, or “Buy a boat and sail around the world for 2 years”. As part of this step, the planner will help you by listening to your concerns and your goals. The planner will help you formulate and prioritize your goals if you need help with that.

Of course, the planner also needs detailed information on your current financial situation. He/she will ask you to provide old tax returns, bank statements, investment statements, insurance policies, divorce or prenuptial agreements, wills, powers of attorney, etc. The planner needs to know details in order to create an accurate and detailed financial plan.

Cash-flow is the heart of a good financial plan. The planner needs to understand how much you are currently spending and what that spending is on. Even if you don’t need or want budgeting help, this is necessary to understand how long your assets might last once you stop working and how you might be able to save more money if that’s necessary. It might even be the case that you want to spend more and by understanding what you are spending on now, the planner can help you spend more on what you really want to spend on. The planner will give you a cash-flow spreadsheet to fill out to collect this information.

Step 3: Analyzing and evaluating the client’s current financial situation

In step 3, the financial planner takes all the information that he/she collected in step 2 and enters it into financial planning software. At Cereus Financial Advisors, we have a number of different software packages we use including:

  • EMoneyAdvisor – Comprehensive Financial Planning and cash flow analysis software.
  • Kwanti – Portfolio Analysis Software.
  • Social Security Maximizer software.

If tax planning is required, we might use tax software to create estimated returns to play with different tax scenarios.

Step 4: Developing and presenting recommendations to sustain or improve a client’s situation

The Financial Advisor will take the analysis from Step 3 and develop a number of recommendations and scenarios. There are often multiple ways to solve a financial problem. For instance, not having enough savings for retirement might be solvable by saving more, working longer, living a more frugal lifestyle in retirement, or something else. At Cereus Financial Advisors, we will work with you in order to present recommendations that we are both happy with. This will often mean multiple conversation to hone in on the solution which works best.

Finally, the financial plan will be ready and we will meet with you to present it and talk about implementation.

Step 5: Implement recommendations

The recommendations in a financial plan are meaningless unless implemented. We help you every step of the way for implementation. If we can’t directly help you, we will recommend other experts to help you. For instance, if we identify that you need estate planning, we will either work with your attorney or recommend one to you. We can help you directly with investment management, life, disability, or long-term-care insurance. But we might identify that you will get a better deal by buying through a group and if so, that’s what we will recommend. Implementation of the recommendations often takes considerable time and we will continue to help you until its completed.

Step 6: Monitor and track the plan

A financial plan needs to be monitored and tracked for changes. You and your family go through life changes. Your goals will evolve. Your assets, income, and spending will change over time.  We believe that financial planning needs to continue even after a financial plan is written and implemented. The plan needs to be revisited and updated at least yearly and sometimes more often.

You can use financial planning software to keep track of your progress. Cereus Financial Advisors offers clients a portal which can automatically download updates and aggregate information for all of your accounts. This can help both you and us monitor your financial plan.

See the following brochures for more information:

CFP Consumer guide to financial planning