A Simple Checklist Saves Lives…and Improves Financial Planning Outcomes


checklist-blueFinancial planning can be complex and overwhelming and that’s why we look for ways to keep the process organized and on track.

Wealth management has many moving parts and markets are in a continual state of change. As a result, creating a sound financial plan takes both discipline and structure. At Keen Wealth Advisors, we’ve found there is no better tool than the simple checklist for making sure your important needs get taken care of.

A History of Checklists

Checklists, although simple, have a long history of improving the outcomes of complex events. In medicine, procedural checklists are used for surgeries, patient care, and to decrease infection rates in hospitals. In fact, the National Institutes of Health found the use of process checklists decreased the number of healthcare associated infections by 40% in one study. Even highly experienced doctors were shown to miss important steps in a process they were familiar with over 25% of the time without a checklist.

The use of checklists is also critical for aviation. In the second demonstration flight of the Boeing B-17 bomber prototype during World War II, the plane crashed after the crew forgot to disengage the plane’s gust locks before takeoff. After the accident, the U.S. Army began implementing checklist procedures before takeoff. Today’s pilots rely on checklists to ensure the safety of their passengers and crew.

And as a pilot myself, I’m fanatical about the use of checklists.

Checklists for Financial Planning

Over our firm’s history, we have found that the use of checklists raises the effectiveness of our financial planning process and reduces the likelihood of errors. More importantly, our process-driven approach allows us to deliver the same rigorous process and outstanding quality to each of our clients.

Without a structured approach, important tasks may not be addressed and financial opportunities may fall through the cracks. By using a standard of practice that has been successful in the past, we improve the efficiency and service we provide clients. The checklists and processes we have developed offer various benefits including:

  • Organization. Checklists help us stay organized and avoid skipping steps in a complex process. Working together with our clients with a checklist allows us to address all areas of a financial plan including retirement planning, risk management, tax planning, and more.
  • Communication. Using checklists allows both our team and our clients to clearly understand what has been done, what needs to be done, and who is accountable to take action.
  • Motivation. Checklists can help motivate our clients to complete tasks and finish important steps in a timely manner. By understanding which step comes next, we can stay on track and on schedule.
  • Structure. Checklists are more than lists, they are a way of operating. By communicating our process using a checklist, clients understand our approach and know what to expect.
  • Collaboration. The best checklists are clear, concise, and collaborative. We have developed our checklists to facilitate discussions, education, and understanding.

Using checklists can help create a more efficient and enjoyable financial planning process. However, it’s important to keep each checklist up-to-date. Be sure to meet with your advisor at least once per year to review important information that may affect your financial strategy including changing markets, changing contribution and gifting limits, as well as new goals or family circumstances.

At Keen Wealth Advisors, we are process-driven and pay attention to the details. By using checklists, we are able to reduce the likelihood of errors, communicate more clearly, and address all areas of a financial plan. We find this structure helps our clients enjoy the financial planning process and be more confident in their financial future.

About Bill KeenBill Keen

Bill Keen is the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, an independent Registered Investment Adviser serving affluent clients preparing for retirement and the host of the Keen On Retirement podcast. Bill brings more than 20 years of financial services experience and holds the CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR designation. Bill created Keen Wealth Advisors to build one of the country’s most personal and trusted wealth and retirement advisory firms. He’s passionate about using checklists to offer outstanding service to his clients.

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