Data Gathering: The First Step in Planning Your Financial Future

With a people-first mindset, the Wealthbridge Difference is all about helping each client achieve his or her personal goals.

We start by guiding our clients through an important administrative process known as data gathering. After all, it’s hard to know where you’re going when you haven’t taken a good look at where you’ve been. Data gathering lays the foundation for your roadmap to financial success.


What is data gathering?

While “data gathering” sounds a bit like computers and spreadsheets should be involved, no passwords or encryption are needed. We take client privacy very seriously, but the process of data gathering is relatively low-tech. At its simplest, data gathering is the process where you gather all of your financial statements and personal documents that will, together, form the basis of your personalized financial plan.


What type of data is needed?

While handing your financial planner a box of papers is an option, it’s not the most efficient way to get started. Instead, before our first meeting, here is a checklist of items you should gather together:

❏   Bank statements for any savings or checking accounts
❏   Statements for any retirement or investment accounts
❏   A copy of your mortgage paperwork, and/or your most recent statement
❏   Statements showing the balance and monthly payment for any auto loans
❏   Credit card statements and current balances
❏   Student loan statements
❏   Paperwork pertaining to a business, should you own one
❏   Alimony or child support statements, if applicable
❏   Any disability insurance documents
❏   Declaration pages for home or renter’s insurance, automobile insurance, and/or any umbrella policies or commercial insurance policies
❏   Life insurance information or policy statements, including group term life insurance from your employer
❏   Paperwork for any other financial accounts not listed
❏   Anything else you think might be helpful.

In addition to financial paperwork, make a list of the following:

●     Relationships: List your spouse, children, and any current or potential beneficiaries.

●     Assets: Anything that generates cash flow is an asset. List rental properties, bank accounts, income-generating investments, and any money that is liquid, meaning that you can access it right away if you want to.

●     Liabilities: Also known as debts, liabilities are anything that cost you money. Consider credit card bills, student loan debt, mortgage debt, your car loan. It’s not uncommon for people to have more liabilities than assets, so if that’s the case for you, do not be alarmed.

It’s helpful to put everything together in a binder to keep organized. Only the most recent statement for each account is needed, and copies are fine. Keep the originals somewhere safe at home.


Why is data gathering important?

The process of gathering this paperwork together will give you the opportunity to consider your short and long-term financial goals before you first walk in the door.


Short-term goals

What financial goals do you wish to accomplish in the next few months? What about in the next one to five years? Are you hoping to find a strategy for paying down your credit card debt while still saving for retirement? Are you looking to devise an aggressive retirement strategy?

Long-term goals

What kinds of financial goals do you have that will likely take more than five years to accomplish? Consider things such as buying a home or paying off your mortgage. Paying off student loans is a common long-term goal, and one that is definitely attainable. In fact, just about any financial goal is attainable with the right planning and proper foundation.


Embrace the process

The time you take gathering this information will allow us to get right to the chase in putting together next steps to help you make your goals a reality. Often, a client will see the array of bank statements and credit card balances in front of them and find that stressful. Know that we don’t judge. Your financial roadmap is but one piece of your story. 

Gathering the appropriate data to get a good starting point towards crafting the right financial plan for you is our one and only goal from reviewing this data. The overview of your assets and liabilities, your goals, and your dreams all intersect with a solid financial plan.

The data gathering stage is also a great time to ask yourself: How often would you like to check in with your advisor? What type of access and information are you seeking from a financial advisor? You are the driver in this process. Our role is to provide guidance and expertise in answering your questions along the way.

The ultimate goal of the data gathering process is to use this information to craft a personalized plan that maximizes your money today to help you achieve your financial goals well into tomorrow.