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Calling for help

Rob Wrubel, CFP®

Take this easy test. I promise, it’s easy. There won’t be any calculations regarding trains leaving from Station A or B.

  1. Your glasses break. Who do you call to fix them?
  2. You need soap and shampoo. Where do you go to get more?
  3. You have a letter to mail (I know, a letter). Where do you go for a stamp?

Ok, those are easy ones, so easy I won’t bother with the answers. For the first two you have choices – you can head to your supermarket, pharmacy or order online to get soap and shampoo. Still, you have a clear idea of where you buy these products and services and do not have to think too hard about it.

Future planning for our families includes aspects of life that require consideration of what steps to take when, who to engage, how the parts fit together and then how to measure success. Knowing who to call and when can be challenging and the answers you get from one professional or another might be different depending on where you are in your life and their experiences and training.

Knowing the roles of each professional you talk to or engage is important and it seems like there’s confusion about who to contact and when. Often, I act like an air traffic control person sending people in the right direction for the help they need at the time.

Your legal, tax, investing, retirement savings, insurance, trust funding and debt reduction savings, ideally, work together. So, who do you call when?

The lawyer:

Estate planning attorneys (lawyers) help with the documents needed if you become incapable of handling your own affairs or deceased. These are your will, powers of attorney and different types of trusts. For families with a member with a qualifying disability, a special-needs trust is almost always used. Some lawyers have experience in future planning and tax and they can be valuable resources with the other members of your team in thinking how to leave legacies efficiently.


We have to file taxes and your CPA can be a helpful resource in this basic and required activity. Additionally, CPAs are important in helping decide how and when to give assets to others – through trusts, gifting and charities donations. A good CPA helps decide which retirement accounts to use and should be involved in decisions about funding strategies for future benefits (like trusts). Tax penalties for errors can be high and the tax savings from certain strategies can be priceless.

Financial planner:

This role seems to cause the most confusion. Once we get to planning and money, the job duties from different professional sometimes overlap or can be handled by one person. Financial planners help you envision the future and map out strategies for the financial funding you need to accomplish your goals. Investment advisors can help invest and manage your money so you can concentrate on daily living and not the markets. Insurance agents can help put coverage in place to cover lost income and pay for future expenses through life and disability policies. Not all of these people have experience with special-needs issues so make sure you find someone that does.

Future planning is different than buying soap or a stamp. It’s a complex process that takes time. For most people, it also means learning new concepts and finding professionals to help. Once you’ve built your team, the answers to difficult questions are much easier to find. You can call your attorney, CPA or financial advisor when something arises. You don’t have to struggle alone and worry about making a wrong choice.

Planning for the future means more than increasing the size of your investments. Having a plan in place and key people to support you means you can focus on today, live with less stress and enjoy the present knowing plans are in place for a secure future.