Magazine

Checklist: How to Get Ready for Your First Financial Planning Meeting

By Ellevest Team

You’ve found a financial planner who’s the right fit — someone who really gets you. Now, your first official financial planning meeting is on the books, and it’s time to prepare. 

Sure, you’ll want to gather essential documents, check in on your goals, and jot down your most pressing questions. The normal stuff you’d do before you meet with any money pro (which we’ll cover below). But if you really want to make the most of your time with your financial planner, you’ll need to practice a little financial wellness, too.

It’s essential to remember: There’s no point in a good financial plan — or a great relationship with a financial planner — if you don’t have the financial confidence to follow through. So, it’s important to get personal and consider the why behind your money habits and hangups. Even if it’s a little uncomfortable at first, you’re ready to do it. And if you feel stuck, your financial planner is in your corner to help you out.

Find everything you need to get ready for your financial planning meeting with our checklist of holistic financial planning questions. Make time to answer some questions ahead of your session, then bookmark the rest to ask when you’re one-on-one. 

PS: If you're working with an Ellevest financial planner, chances are you've already checked off a lot of these.

Financial Planning Checklist

Before your first financial planning meeting, ask yourself these questions. 

Pull the numbers.

  • What’s your income and how often do you get paid? This is the foundation of where you are with your money today. Bring your most recent pay and tax return info to your call.

  • How much money do you have now and where is it? Do you have a savings account? A retirement account through your job (or one you set up on your own)? A taxable investment account with a broker? On the flip side, do you have debt? Credit cards? Student loans? Car loans? Mortgage(s)? No judgment. You just want to be able to tell your financial planner what’s up. Bring the balances for each account and the interest rates on each debt.

  • Do you have a sense of your spending habits? If not, it might be worth combing back through a few bank or credit card statements. At bare minimum, you’ll want to understand whether you’re spending less than you earn.

Check in with personal factors.

  • Have any major life changes happened lately? Like getting married or divorced, having kids or grandkids, moving between states, changing jobs, or unemployment? All these things can affect your future financial plans, so your financial planner might have to adjust certain things to stay on track.

  • How’s your money mindset? Get ready to get real about your money mindset with your financial planner. Being open and honest about where you are mentally and emotionally will help them understand where you’re coming from. And, maybe more importantly, will help you understand where you’re coming from. If you don’t feel like you have good financial habits or aren’t capable of managing your money, share that. A good financial planner won’t judge you. A great one will tell you that it’s OK, because women have been conditioned to believe that we’re “bad with money.” But you just aren’t. Ahead of your financial planning meeting, challenge yourself to dig into why you might be underestimating your abilities. The sooner you identify your money triggers, the sooner you can prevent negative feelings from taking over and sabotaging your financial plan.

  • How do your core values show up? The beliefs you prioritize above all else should guide every money decision you make, from the everyday ones to the choices with the most major consequences. Using your core values like this means you’re making the most intentional, aligned choices — even if you have to make a tradeoff. Revisit them now and keep them top of mind during your first financial planning meeting.

Consider your dream life.

  • What are your biggest financial goals? This will likely be the starting point of your conversation with your financial planner. Do you want to buy a house in a few years? A vacation home in a few more? Cope with a financial challenge? Do you want to start your own business? Save for your kids’ college education? Retire early? Retire someplace warm? If you dream it, we can plan for it. (PS: If you don’t have any specific financial goals at the moment, that’s OK! Your planner can help you set them.)

  • What lifestyle do you visualize for your retirement? This is key to figuring out how much money you’re going to need to save and invest to make your version of retirement a reality someday. Where will you live? What’ll you do with your time? (It may not seem like it now, but “do nothing at all” will get boring fast.) Are there any hobbies or passions you’d like to pursue? What legacy do you want to leave behind?

During your first financial planning meeting, ask your financial planner these questions.

Optimize money going out.

  • How can I tweak my spending habits? Walk your financial planner through how you spend what you earn (and if you’re spending more than you earn). Hopefully you feel comfortable enough to be honest about if your spending habits make you feel powerful or guilty. Ask for advice about how you might adjust your approach or revise your budget to feel more in charge and avoid overspending.

  • What’s the best way to pay off my debt? No matter what kind — or how much — debt you have, it pays (often literally) to have a strategic payoff plan. Ask your financial planner to help you make one.

Make your money work smarter.

  • How do I prioritize my savings and investing? Of course you want to do everything, so one of the big financial planning questions you’ll ask is what you should do right now. Pay off debt? Save for emergencies? Focus on retirement? Ask your financial planner to help you sort through your priorities and focus your efforts.

  • How big should my emergency fund be? Your financial planner can help you decide how much you should aim to save in your emergency fund, and then make a plan to hit that number, even if it’s little by little. 

Feel good about your future.

  • How can I get on track for my goals? Whether you’ve started investing for your long-term goals or not, your financial planner should be able to give you a sense of whether you’re on track. If you happen not to be, they can give you suggestions to get there. Ask them how they define “on track,” too — it should map to your own life rather than a cookie-cutter milestone. This is especially important for women, since things like gender money gaps and more career breaks lead us to retire with less than men (about two-thirds as much money, in fact, even though we live an average of six to eight years longer). 

  • How can I get in touch if I need support or get stuck? Your financial planner should have your back during your one-on-one time and after it. Confirm the best way to get in touch with them if you have a quick question or need a pep talk (might as well confirm their typical response time, too). You and your financial planner are a team. Whether you’re feeling motivated or overwhelmed as you wrap up your financial planning meeting, tell them about your state of mind so you can get the support you need then and there. By the end of your meeting, you should feel like you’re ready to take on whatever’s next, together.

Want to feel like you’re set up to do the right things for you with your money? Book a complimentary 15-minute call with an Ellevest financial planner and get support right away.


Disclosures

© 2024 Ellevest, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

All opinions and views expressed by Ellevest are current as of the date of this writing, are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute or imply an endorsement of any third party’s products or services.

Information was obtained from third-party sources, which we believe to be reliable but are not guaranteed for accuracy or completeness.

The information provided should not be relied upon as investment advice or recommendations, does not constitute a solicitation to buy or sell securities, and should not be considered specific legal, investment, or tax advice.

The information provided does not take into account the specific objectives, financial situation, or particular needs of any specific person.

Investing entails risk, including the possible loss of principal, and past performance is not predictive of future results.

Ellevest, Inc. is an SEC-registered investment adviser. Ellevest fees and additional information can be found at www.ellevest.com.

Ellevest Team

The Ellevest team is working to help women reach their financial goals.