Coach for life Featured

8:00pm EDT June 29, 2005

If you've followed professional football over the past few years, you recognize the name Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots. The Patriots have won three out of the last four world championships and are easily the most dominant team of this decade. Many experts believe that this success is due primarily to Belichick's coaching genius - assembling the best coaching staff and players possible, designing and executing the game plan, and making necessary adjustments during changing game-time situations.

During our lifetimes, we encounter various game-time situations, whether they be organizing and managing our finances, planning for college and retirement, running a business, receiving a financial windfall, planning our estate or a host of other things. In preparing for these game-time situations, it would be wise to hire a coach -- in other words, to seek the services of a qualified financial planner.

Like a coach, a financial planner designs your personal game plan and sees that it is properly executed, often with the help of specialists such as attorneys, investment managers, insurance agents and CPAs. An experienced financial planner is also able to make necessary adjustments during times of great change in your life. Selecting a financial planner may be one of the most important decisions you make for yourself and your loved ones.

A certified financial planner (CFP) can be a great asset in helping you reach your personal goals. CFPs have taken an extra step to demonstrate their professionalism by voluntarily submitting to the rigorous CFP certification process.

CFPs complete a comprehensive course of study and pass a two-day, 10-hour CFP certification examination that covers the financial planning process, tax planning, employee benefits, retirement planning, estate planning, investment management and insurance.

In addition, a CFP must have a minimum of three years of experience in the financial planning process and abide by a strict code of professional conduct, known as the CFP Board's Code of Ethics. This code sets forth their ethical responsibilities to the public, to clients and to employers.

When you share your goals with your financial planner, he or she can help you stay focused on achieving them by:

* Reviewing relevant financial information, including tax returns, investment statements, retirement programs, your will, legal documents and your insurance policies.

* Developing your net worth statement -- a balance sheet that examines your assets and debt load.

* Developing your cash flow statement. This is a great way to identify what income comes in and what expenses go out of the family budget.

* Helping you determine your personal investment risk tolerance. Your planner can then help develop a plan for investing in accordance with your goals, without you losing sleep.

* Providing a written financial plan -- the road map to success.

* Helping implement your financial plan, including advising you on investments and referring you to specialists.

* Reviewing your situation and financial plan annually and suggesting options to modify the plan when needed.

* Providing updates to track your progress on goals, including investment growth or debt reduction.

In the world of sports, behind every successful team is a competent coach. Likewise, a qualified and trustworthy financial planner -- your coach for life -- can play a central role in helping you meet your goals and achieve financial well-being.

Gary A. Storie, MBA, MS, CFP is a wealth adviser, NexTier Wealth Management for Citizens National Bank. Reach him at (724) 935-3461 or