Five Easy Steps to Help Your Clients Plan for 2018

Written by: Peter Anderson

One year ago, the idea that the bull market would continue its run was far from the conventional wisdom.

A new and controversial president was taking office who promised protectionism, closed borders and higher tariffs. Most analysts predicted that a Trump presidency would be a mixed bag, at best, for the markets.

But, here we stand, a bull market still running strongly, with the S&P 500 up almost 20 percent in the last year, a message on its own for anyone who thinks they can outsmart the market. With that in mind, isn’t it only natural that some profit-taking will cause a pause in the markets sometime in 2018?

Alas, if only we all knew that, investing would be a lot simpler exercise. But, there are steps your clients can take to put themselves in position, no matter what direction investments go in 2018. In addition to looking back on the year and recalibrating for the next one, it is a great opportunity for you to connect with your clients and demonstrate the value you bring them.

Here are five easy tasks to take care of with your clients as the year comes to an end that they will make them appreciate your work:

1. Make sure they are maxing out company retirement plan contributions they have access to. The investing world’s equivalent of table stakes: if they do nothing else, do this to reduce their taxes and/or take advantage of company matches that can be free money they don’t want to leave on the table.

2. Have a will and an estate plan and make sure it is up to date. This is the time to remind them of this obligation to future generations through trusts and their will.

3. Take advantage of the many ways they can reduce their taxable income. This can include a series of steps you can suggest to them that include:

  • selling off losing positions to offset realized gains;
  • preparing charitable donations and planned giving by the end of the year; and
  • if the client has a business of their own, defer and accelerate business expenses.
  • 4. Review health insurance, their health savings account and their flexible spending balance. These can be hidden places to minimize tax liability and it comes at a good time to review how much coverage they have and need, and what it is actually costing them. And, in the case of the flexible spending balance, a place to look to make sure they are not forfeiting unused funds.

    Related: Advisors Play a Critical Role in Educating Overwhelmed Clients About What They Will Need to Retire

    5. Planning for 2018: This can be the biggest part of the meeting: the time to revisit goals and monitor progress. End of the old year/beginning of a new one is the perfect time to tweak your plan that can help set them up for the financial goals you seek. And, it’s the time to catch up about family events that can include new arrivals in the form of children and grandchildren and any other major moves or downsizing that might be coming up.

    This is not a bad time to ask them to return the favor and refer you to any of their friends, neighbors or colleagues who could benefit from your work. The peace of mind the well-run year-end meeting can bring is far more valuable than any other year-end gift you can give them.

    Peter Anderson is Vice President of Sales at GWG Holdings, Inc. He holds a CRPC certification and is a registered representative of Emerson Equity, member FINRA/SIPC.