Planning For Your Financial Future – Down East

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Planning for the future has been a bit tricky since 2020, and the upheaval from COVID-19 has caused a lot of people to reevaluate everything from their bucket lists to their timelines for retirement. “It’s definitely prompted a lot of self-reflection,” says Derek Davis, a Certified Financial Planner and relationship manager with Bangor Wealth Management in Portland. He’s fielded a flurry of calls from folks wanting to retire early, change careers, or embark on ambitious home-renovation projects. All these choices have ripple effects, says Natalya Pearl, a Certified Financial Planner and senior relationship manager for Bangor Wealth Management of New Hampshire. “It’s important to take a holistic view of how all the pieces of the puzzle will fit together,” she says.

Here’s how these pros suggest rethinking money matters in such trying times.

What lessons did we learn from the pandemic?

PEARL: For many, it was a wake-up call about the importance of having an emergency fund to pay the bills if you have no money coming in. We’ve always suggested having enough to cover at least three to six months of living expenses.

DAVIS: We also got a reminder of how important it is to avoid making decisions based on emotion. Between February and March of 2020, the market dropped 33 percent, and people saw their savings take a huge hit. Anyone who pulled their money out really missed out on a very good year. By the end of 2020, the S&P 500 was up 18.4 percent.


What can working with a financial planner do for a person?

DAVIS: We sit with clients to identify their financial goals, map out a strategy to achieve them, and track their progress. We also closely monitor legislation impacting savings and estate planning, so we can help our clients amend their plans if necessary. There are misconceptions that you have to be very wealthy to work with a financial planner, or that you don’t need a planner until you’re ready to retire, but that’s not the case. Our clients range in age from people in their 30s, who are trying to save enough to buy their first home, to retirees in their 80s, who are tweaking their charitable-giving plans.

What’s the best way to choose a financial planner?

PEARL: Find out how the advisor or firm is compensated; some charge on an hourly basis, others charge per transaction or get sales commissions, while others, like Bangor Wealth Management, charge an asset under management fee that covers all meetings, investing, and planning work. The most important question you should ask is whether the planner acts in a fiduciary capacity for clients (or on behalf of them) 100 percent of the time. Certified Financial Planners (or CFPs) are legally bound to act as fiduciaries, so that’s a good place to start.