At one time, Americans could count on the three-legged stool of traditional pension, adequate savings, and Social Security. No more. Atlanta planner Elizabeth Jetton knows that personal saving and investing and making the most out of employer benefits is more important than before.
But a financial planner adds value to the process in other ways too. “A planner should be asking you if you’re happy with your choices. And if you’re not happy with your choices, you need to be able to make a change. And you do have to plan for change:’
Many times, Jetton has welcomed new clients into her office who arrived with the goal of redoing their 401(k), and, “Sometime later in the conversation I’ll hear, But I really want to quit,” she explains.
The earlier she can get clients, the better. “We deal with two types of capital: financial capital and human capital. With financial capital, we start off young people with the bucket system-creating separate buckets for basic expenses, emergency fund, retirement and home savings, and fun. We also do a dream bucket-if the person’s goal is to take time off from work in five years or to return to school, you can make a plan for that.”
Human capital means a person’s ability to earn money, Jetton explains. From a planner’s perspective, it means taking a close look at what an employer is offering the worker right now-and whether the job is worth keeping based on that and other factors. “Benefits are hugely important at every stage of your career. If your current employer seems to focus more on child care benefits than educational benefits and you’re not planning to have kids for a decade, you either need to find a new job with benefits that suit you or if you really want to stay, you need to plan for that educational choice on your own.”
Jetton believes in long-term financial planning, but believes that in the future, more people will want to plan their life in “blocks.”
“The younger we are, the more we discount it, but I have to remind people that they are going to live a very long time. You’ll spend a portion of your life working, and then you may cut back on working so you can get some education. You may want to explore a creative outlet so you won’t be earning as much. Planning allows you to say yes to all those choices.”