Guidance

RESOURCES TO HELP SHAPE YOUR FINANCIAL FUTURE

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Jeffrey G. Sweno, MBA
First Vice President
Wintrust Investments

As emotional human beings, too often we dwell on what has happened to us rather than on what we can do about the things that have happened. This is especially true when managing investments. Here are five steps to take to help keep you focused on your financial future.

1. Step number one is to put the past in the past. The ill-advised practice of focusing on the past is akin to trying to drive forward while looking in your rear-view mirror. If you keep looking at what your portfolio used to be worth, and ignoring where it is going today you will miss the opportunities that exist in the current market. Accept what has happened in the past and move on.

2. Understand the true risks of investing. It is one of the great mysteries of the human psyche that, as investors, we sense less risk when the markets are high, and more risks when they are low, but it remains true nonetheless. The two biggest enemies of most investors are fear and greed. If you can get a grip on these emotions, and gain a deeper understanding of the true risks you face, you stand a much better chance of achieving your goals. Your financial advisor should have the tools to establish your risk tolerance and utilize measures like standard deviation to help you measure risk and volatility.

3. Benchmark your current situation. This step is key to achieving your goals, because you will never know what work needs to be done, or how far you really have to go, until you complete the benchmarking process. For this step, and also for steps 4 and 5, you have two options. You can do the work yourself, or you can seek the help of a qualified financial professional.

The goal of this step is to see exactly where you are today in relationship to your long-term financial goals, your legacy goals, your family goals, and your retirement goals if you are still working. Remember, we are not looking for where you were, but where you are. You need to review all of your current statements on both the savings side and the debt side. In addition, you need to look at insurance contracts, social security estimates, pension projections, home valuation, mortgage balances, as well as wills and trusts.

4. Establish a clear and well thought out plan. The emphasis here is on your vision for your life going forward: the dreams, values, goals, and needs that are unique to you and your situation. It is why you do what you do every day. Any successful plan begins with the end in mind and yours is no different. You need to answer questions like: “What does retirement look like?”, “Where will I live?”, “How much money do I need?”, “What is the ideal amount of annual income and where will it come from?”. You need to be as detailed as possible to increase your probability of success. So please, for your own benefit and future goals, be specific.

5. Take action. Much like thinking about exercise will not make you physically fit; it is the implementation of the plan that produces results. You have taken the time to do four very important things here. Now, let us use that information to chart a course to your destination.