The holiday season will be here before we know it — and then, it’s on to the new year! This is a busy time of year for most people, but it can be especially so for financial planners. We’ve gotta get through all our end-of-year tasks and holiday plans early enough to take time off, shut down the firm, or at least be able to run on minimal staffing for a week or two.
So, how can you prepare for the holidays and make sure your practice is all set for the new year? The key is to plan ahead and get things done as early as possible! The more tasks you can check off before Thanksgiving, the easier it is to deal with last-minute issues and still get everything done before your holiday closure.
Holiday business prep #1: Know your end-of-year deadlines
Start your planning by figuring out the custodian deadlines for all your year-end tasks. For example, if you have a client who wants to do a Roth conversion, when does that need to be completed? When do you need to have standard year-end forms submitted to Schwab (or whatever custodian organizations you work with)?
You may think that the deadline is December 31, but many organizations set their dates earlier. (After all, they want to be able to complete all their tasks before the holidays too.) So make a comprehensive list of all the deadlines for all your custodian organizations. Then, compare those deadlines to your client list to find out which deadlines affect which clients. That way, you know exactly how much time you have left to get your end-of-year documentation completed.
Holiday business prep #2: Schedule meetings
Once you’ve figured out the deadlines that apply to each of your clients (e.g., when client X needs to complete their Roth conversion paperwork), then it’s time to start scheduling those year-end meetings.
You don’t want to be frantically working through documentation in mid-December — and neither will your clients. The earlier you can schedule those year-end meetings, the easier it will be to get everything done in time. Plus, planning ahead this way helps ensure that your clients and team members get to go into their holiday vacations knowing that everything is taken care of. You’re building their trust — and giving yourself enough time to take care of any unforeseen issues that pop up.
Holiday business prep #3: Help clients with gifting strategies
This time of year is when many clients start looking at their charitable donations and tax liability. Chances are you’ll have some clients who will be looking for ways to donate more money before the end of the year so they can maximize their tax write-offs. So as you’re planning your year-end meetings with clients, make sure you leave time for these discussions.
Some of your clients might not have Roth conversions or other time-sensitive work that needs to get done. So it can be easy to overlook them when you’re making your list of tasks based on custodian deadlines. But you might have an entire group of clients who do want to meet with you to discuss their charitable giving and tax mitigation strategies. Don’t overlook these clients — and make sure you have enough time in your schedule to get their meetings and donations completed as early as possible.
Holiday business prep #4: Order client and employee gifts
Do you send holiday gifts or cards to your clients? Or give your employees end-of-year gifts? If so, plan and order those as soon as possible. This is especially important if your intended gifts are related to the holidays! For example, you may have to order Christmas wreaths well ahead of time to ensure your clients receive them before Christmas!
Even a small gift or personalized card can make a big difference to a client — it’s an easy way to give them an excellent experience. Plus, ordering holiday gifts for your clients and employees is probably one of the easier tasks on your year-end list — it’s not going to require a lot of brain power or financial planning skills. So take some time, get those orders in, and enjoy the feeling of crossing a holiday task off your list.
Holiday business prep #5: Complete performance reviews
If you’re a manager, schedule some time to handle those internal year-end tasks:
- Performance appraisals
- Promotion reviews
- Bonus calculations
These don’t involve your clients, but they likely involve most or all of your team members — and no one wants to be finishing up performance reviews right before they go on vacation.
While you’re conducting those performance reviews, you can also start looking forward to next year and thinking about what you want to keep the same and do differently. Take time to do that end-of-year analysis a little bit early — you’ll make sure you’re on track for next year and avoid having to relive challenges/disappointments from the year while you’re getting ready to take time off.
Build in time for things to go wrong
There are many things that we need to finalize for our financial planning clients before the end of the year. And the key to making Q4 as smooth as possible is to get all those tasks done as soon as possible.
If you can take care of your performance reviews, client meetings, and holiday gifts before Thanksgiving, then you can avoid the pre-holiday rush of trying to get everything done right before you go on vacation. Plus, you have some extra time in your calendar to handle any emergencies or last-minute tasks that pop up.
If you want more practical advice for your financial planning career, join Amplified Planning. A subscription gets you access to online forums and educational materials. Plus, you get the chance to watch videos of real-world client meetings and try your hand at making financial plans for these clients. Monthly subscriptions start at just $30. Find out more and join today!