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Key Questions to Ask During Your Annual Financial Review: Ensuring a Strong Financial Flight Plan

(Including a few your advisor should be asking you)


Just as pilots regularly review their flight plans to ensure a safe and efficient journey, conducting an annual review with your financial planner is essential for maintaining a healthy financial trajectory. This meeting is a strategic checkpoint to assess financial progress, realign goals, and make necessary adjustments. For clients of advisory services like Aergo Financial Planning, this is a critical opportunity to ensure their financial plan remains on course. Here are some key questions to ask during your annual financial review and provide valuable insights.

1. Are We on Track to Meet My Financial Goals?

A crucial question is whether you're on course to meet your financial goals, whether it's retirement, education funding, or wealth accumulation. This is akin to a pilot confirming their flight is on the correct trajectory and altitude. This should include thoroughly examining your finances as they have changed since your last meeting, including what assumptions have changed and projections that include rigorous stress testing of different market environments.

2. How Have Tax Laws or Regulations Changed, and Do They Affect My Plan?

Tax laws and regulations can change annually. Inquire how any recent changes might impact your financial strategy, ensuring you're utilizing the most tax-efficient methods. For example, in 2023, we saw the introduction of the FHSA, and it has impacted advice for both renters aspiring to buy a home, pre-age 71 retirees who have downsized to renting and parents looking to support their children's first home purchase.

3. How Have My Investments Performed Compared to Benchmarks?

Understanding your performance is pivotal if your advisor also manages your investments. Ask how your investments have fared against relevant benchmarks. This gives you a clear view of your portfolio relative to the market, similar to how a pilot checks instruments against expected performance metrics.

3b. Why do You use Those Benchmarks?

The most important word above is "relevant." While there are reasons to use custom benchmarks, broadly accepted benchmarks based on indexes are the best benchmarks. MSCI, S&P, and FTSE are the big three to look out for. If there are other benchmarks used, there should be a very specific reason that you understand to justify the rationale.

4. Is My Retirement Plan Still on Track?

Discuss the progress of your retirement savings. Are you saving enough, and are your investments aligned with your expected retirement date and lifestyle goals? This is likely the largest thing you will ever purchase (the time to do what you want during your late years), so ensuring you are on track is critical.

5. Are There Any New Investment Opportunities or Products I Should Consider?

Just joking - You should only be making changes to your investment plan if something is changed in your life that would cause a shift in your portfolio strategy. The two line items that should be considered during each review are rebalancing existing investments to ensure they align with investment objectives and, in specific circumstances, tax loss selling.

6. How Are My Insurance Needs Being Met?

Review your insurance coverage to ensure it still meets your needs. Changes in life circumstances might necessitate adjustments to your insurance policies. This includes life, disability, and critical illness insurance; depending on your advisor, it could consist of health or travel insurance. If your plan includes participating permanent insurance (whole life, universal life), there should be a very specific reason for having these more expensive structures in place. We will explore this more in a future post.

7. What Are the Fees Associated with My Financial Plan?

Understanding the cost of financial advice and management is crucial. Ensure transparency in the fees you're paying and assess the value you receive in return. If someone says nothing, please ask them how they get paid and how it affects your returns and finances.

8. How Can I Better Align My Spending with My Financial Goals?

Discuss your spending habits and how they align with your financial goals. This can involve budget adjustments to support your long-term objectives better. This should be a part of your planning updates. Understanding where your dollars are going and how that looks in the future is the foundation of any plan. Cash flow is king.

Now for a few fundamental questions, your advisor should be asking you:

1. Have There Been Any Significant Changes in Your Life Since Our Last Meeting?

Life is full of changes, and your financial planner should be the first to inquire about any significant life events like marriage, a new child, a career shift, or a bereavement that could impact your financial plan.

2. How Do You Feel About Your Current Financial Situation?

A good financial planner will want to know your personal feelings about your finances. Are you comfortable, anxious, or uncertain? This helps them understand your perspective and tailor their advice accordingly. The best plan is one that you can follow. Many a financial plan looks good on a spreadsheet, but if it can't be done in reality, then it is likely a bad plan.

3. Are There Any Changes in Your Financial Goals or Priorities?

As time passes, your goals and priorities might shift. Your planner should check in to see if there are any new goals or changes in existing ones, whether it's retirement, buying a home, or funding education or more simple like lifestyle changes and even negative goals (I don't want to do that anymore)

4. Have You Experienced Any Health Changes That Might Affect Your Financial Plan? Changes in your health can have significant financial implications. Your planner should ask about this to ensure your financial plan reflects any new insurance needs or medical expenses. Financial Planners use everything from simple life expectancy metrics to complex Monte Carlo simulations to attempt to predict the future. All data points are helpful.

5. How Do You Feel About the Risks in Your Investment Portfolio?

Your planner needs to gauge your current risk tolerance. They should ask if you're comfortable with your investment portfolio's risk level and discuss any potential adjustments. Making a mistake here with too much risk and selling when not appropriate or too little and not having your dollars working as hard as you can manage is fundamental to the long-term health of your plan.

6. Are You Satisfied with Our Communication and Service Over the Past Year?

A thoughtful planner will seek feedback on the advisory relationship. They should ask if you're happy with how often you're communicating and the quality of service you're receiving. If your planner's communication is causing your anxiety, let them know! If you need more, you are paying them, so tell them.

7. Have You Had Any Major Changes in Income Level or Spending?

Changes in your job or income can significantly affect your financial status. Expect your planner to ask about this so they can adjust your financial plan accordingly. These are the two main levers to adjust in any plan.

8. Do You Have Any New Financial Concerns or Areas You'd Like to Explore?

Finally, your planner should give you the opportunity to raise any new concerns or discuss areas of financial interest, such as estate planning or new investment opportunities. If they don't know, let them get back to you or refer you to an appropriate, knowledgeable expert.


Your annual financial review is vital to maintaining a healthy financial journey. It's the time to recalibrate, much like a pilot adjusts a flight path based on weather changes, ensuring that your financial plan is tailored to your evolving life circumstances and goals. These questions will guide you in having a productive discussion with your financial planner, such as those at Aergo Financial Planning, ensuring that your financial strategy is sound and on course to meet your objectives. Remember, an informed and proactive approach is critical to a successful financial journey.

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