A First Foundation Blog

What is Wealth Planning? Pt. 1: The Heart of Wealth Planning

4 minute read

In unpredictable times—like what we are experiencing now—an immediate concern of many is the financial security of their family. As a father of three young girls, I have thought a lot about being able to provide financially for my family, and I know many of our clients have similar worries. But, it doesn’t always have to be about families; in fact, it usually has to start with the individual who wants to experience financial security throughout their life.

Financial security is, in essence, the heart of wealth planning. What is wealth planning? We call it the advice and the corresponding actions to help clients build, manage, and protect their wealth to create financial security.

More broadly defined, wealth planning is a client-centered process focused on developing a roadmap to help clients build, manage, protect, and transition their wealth by looking at all areas of their financial life—including retirement, tax, legacy, and business planning. Ideally this results in the peace of mind that comes from knowing they and their family are financially secure regardless of the circumstances.

But how do you do this? We encourage utilizing a process. By following a process, you can define the financial goals that shape the financial security you desire. The advice and recommendations that result are the foundational components of wealth planning.

So, what is the first step in the process? We always advise our clients to first identify goals and gather the information needed to create a roadmap to ultimately achieve those goals. Defining goals is about understanding what financial security means to you. We spend this part of the process asking the following three, thought-provoking questions:

  1. What is your desired lifestyle, both before and during retirement?
  2. To what extent do you want to take care of your family, and are you willing to also support the pursuit of their goals into adulthood?
  3. Do you want to use the wealth you accumulate to support charitable causes you believe deeply in?

Ultimately, you define what your goals are, but we are here to help you clarify them. For instance, it is one thing to say that you want to put your kids through college, it is another to say which college, what scholarships (if any) apply, how many years you will support them, will you pay for lodging or just tuition, do you want them to work part-time, etc. We help work through the details to set you on the right path.

Once goals are defined and information is gathered, the next step is to assess where you are currently, aka “how far do you have to go?” This is where we look at the all the relevant areas of wealth planning, which include investment, retirement, estate, tax, and risk management, to provide a status check as to where you stand. In order to do this effectively, you ideally would work with a planner who has the experience and expertise to not only assess these areas as individual pieces, but who can also view the bigger picture. Like the pieces of a puzzle. Each piece is important, but without the knowledge of the final product, it is difficult to build anything. Oftentimes there are gaps in a one’s financial life because they worked with professionals who focus on only one specific area, but they do not work with someone who has the expertise to make sure all the financial life pieces fit and work together in harmony. By dealing with these planning gaps, we are able to help our clients create financial security.

One of the hardest things for individuals to identify on their own are possible weaknesses or blind spots that could endanger their financial security. Most people underestimate their weaknesses, or in some cases they overstate their perceived challenges. We will help you uncover blind spots in an objective, unbiased manner.

Again, the focus of wealth planning is helping you obtain financial security, so once a full assessment is completed, then the proper recommendations need to be made and eventually executed. This is the recommendation and the execution stage of wealth planning. Recommendations should be made that do not make someone feel less secure due to long lock-up periods of individual investments, large fees or commissions, or confusion regarding complex planning strategies. Once recommendations are agreed to, it is time to execute. This is where we work with your financial advisor to make sure items are implemented in a timely manner. This includes building an investment profile based on what we learned about you.

Financial security may be achieved today, but it is important to remember it is not static. As your life circumstances change, you should be seeking further advice and refining your wealth plan. Financial security needs to be something that is continually planned for, and you need to be confident you have the right partner working with you.

That is the heart of wealth planning and is what we at First Foundation Advisors do. We are passionate about being there for our clients when it matters most. If you are interested in understanding what it takes to be confident that you are on the road to financial security, we invite you to speak with our wealth planning team. Whether you are just starting out, or have experienced some recent bumps along the way and need to course-correct, we are here for you.

If you are already a client of First Foundation Advisors, please reach out to your financial advisor to learn more.

Read Part 2: Lifestyle Planning


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Daniel Fan, J.D., LL.M., CFP®, Senior Managing Director – Head of Wealth Planning
About the Author
Daniel Fan, J.D., LL.M., CFP®, Senior Managing Director – Head of Wealth Planning
Daniel Fan serves as the Senior Managing Director – Head of Wealth Planning for First Foundation Advisors. In this role, he oversees the firm's Wealth Planning department and advises clients on sophisticated wealth strategies. Mr. Fan has over 15 years of experience as a Wealth Planner and specializes in evaluating and optimizing all clients' wealth plans to meet their financial needs. He works closely with all teams across First Foundation and ensures he delivers a personalized experience to support all clients. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Fan was a Senior Vice President, Director of Wealth Planning and Insurance at First Bank Wealth Management, where he implemented the financial planning process for all business segments. He also worked as the Vice President, Regional Director, Senior Wealth Strategist at Union Bank Private Wealth Planning and as a Senior Vice President, Senior Wealth Planning Strategist at Wells Fargo Private Bank. Mr. Fan is a Certified Financial Planner® and holds his Juris Doctorate and Master's in taxation from Pepperdine University School of Law and Golden Gate University respectively. He earned his Bachelor's degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. Read more