Financial Fitness

Investment Planning? Gather All Your Assets

Crafting an investment plan with limited information can leave you with less than optimal results.

by Mark Tosczak - December 18, 2017

Investment planning is like doing a jigsaw puzzle. You have to combine information on assets, debt, insurance, and more in order to form the full picture of your financial life. But unlike a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces don’t always come in one box — often you have to gather them from a variety of sources.

It’s one of the reasons why many people don’t have a complete picture of their financial life, says Elizabeth “Liz” Bartley, Sales Advisory Consultant at Wells Fargo Advisors. People often forget about or lose some of their investment planning puzzle pieces, and then the picture is never really complete.

Why the full picture really matters

“From an investment standpoint, you really don’t have a good gauge of how much risk you could potentially be taking,” if you aren’t looking at all of your holdings in conjunction with each other, Bartley says. It’s not just investments. Loans, including any student loans, business loans, or mortgages, may impact your overall plan, too.

Without this full picture, individuals and their Financial Advisors end up doing their investment planning based on what amounts to faulty information. And that can result in a risk profile or asset mix that doesn’t represent your desires or needs.

“Understanding how much debt you have versus assets is a starting point for making improvements and creating more wealth over time.”

— Liz Bartley, Sales Advisory Consultant, Wells Fargo Advisors

This is especially common among people who have assets spread across numerous financial institutions — you may have several 401(k) accounts from different jobs maintained at a variety of institutions, some online investments in another place, and your primary portfolio you maintain with your Financial Advisor.

“Understanding how much debt you have versus assets is a starting point for making improvements and creating more wealth over time,” Bartley adds.

Putting the pieces together

So how do you collect and put together everything you need? Financial Advisors often start with a checklist of important information, Bartley says. Even when most of your assets are with a single company, there’s still information to gather from other sources.

Here are some key things to consider:

  • Investment accounts with other institutions. This could include qualified employer-sponsored retirement plans (QRPs) such as a 401(k), 403(b) or governmental 457(b) still at previous employers and IRAs.
  • Checking and savings accounts.
  • Assets you own, such as your primary residence, a second home, rental property, and valuables — antiques, jewelry, or an art collection.
  • Debts, including your mortgage, credit card balances, and other loans and lines of credit.
  • Other investment vehicles, such as long-term care insurance, annuities, and life insurance policies. These may be important sources of future income.
  • Trust funds.
  • Rental income or other earnings beyond your primary source of income.
  • Social Security statements. These help your Financial Advisor provide a more accurate estimate of your retirement income.

Ask your Financial Advisor to keep copies of this information, which can function as a backup for your records. That’s especially valuable, Bartley says, in case anything happens to you.

Mark Tosczak has spent 25 years wrangling words for newspapers, magazines, businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations. He focuses on health care, science, and business.

Image by iStock

Additional Resources

If you have a partner or spouse, your financial planning efforts may need to include their point of view and assets as well.

Get the free Wells Fargo Advisors guide to taking control of your financial future.