Gardner: On the rocky trail to financial security in Summit County (column) |

Gardner: On the rocky trail to financial security in Summit County (column)

Nancy Gardner
Special to the Daily |

No doubt you have several bike or hiking trails you like to take on the weekends. You probably have also discovered some that are more difficult and too much work to navigate, so you bypass them. Likewise, the trail or path to financial security may also seem like it is too difficult, if not impossible, and you have procrastinated exploring it. Perhaps your thinking is “maybe next year” or worse, “someday.” The reality is that it is one of the most important paths you will ever take in your lifetime.

As a certified financial planner, I have probably heard all the excuses that you could possibly use and more for putting off planning and saving for the future. Those who do not give it any thought are focused only on the here and now. Months and years can slip by before you know it, so I encourage you not to put it off. That of course raises the question “when should I start planning and saving for the future?” Theoretically, as soon as you start working. As a beginning point, try to start taking money from your paycheck each month and putting it into a savings account.

If you can start with five percent, that is a commitment. You can work your way up to ten percent. In upcoming columns, we will be covering in-depth what steps you will want to take at what age or life status.

That brings us to the purpose of this column, which is to help you find your pathway and overcome the obstacles along the way. Over the coming months, we will cover all the areas of personal financial planning starting with the basics and then building on them. Some will need an introduction to financial planning while others will initially find the advice too elementary for them. Hang in there, and we will all get to your level of understanding. At the very least, it will serve as a refresher. My goal is to not only help, but to inspire and motivate everyone to take the steps necessary to develop and execute a plan to achieve financial security.

Anyone can benefit from planning. Quite frankly, those who have the least can benefit the most. So what does “financial security” mean? In this context, it means freedom from financial cares and worry. It means not living paycheck to paycheck or leaving your family financially devastated if something unexpected happened to the primary breadwinner. In the later years of life, it can translate into financial freedom and the ability to retire on income from your savings and investments. Financial freedom provides options to live life and spend your time as you choose. Not a bad goal to have.

Some of the areas we will cover are:



Emergency funds

Retirement accounts

College funding

Health care



Insurance: disability, house, car, life

Employment benefits

Retirement planning

Tax planning

Wills & trusts

Estate planning

Space precludes me from listing every subcategory, but this will give you a good idea of what future columns will explore.

One of the main thoughts I want to leave you with in this column is the importance of choosing the best people to advise you. Three of the things to look for are credentials, how they are compensated and are they unbiased in their advice. Don’t be reluctant to ask what designations and experience they have. Ask how they are paid and when. Do they get paid the same amount by you regardless of investment performance or capability of product to serve your needs? Do they get paid upfront, so there is no incentive for them to manage your investments well on an ongoing basis (ex. frontloaded mutual funds)? Finally, are they in the business of recommending and selling only their own products despite the fact their product may not be appropriate for you or is inferior? It is critical that your interests are put first and that your advisor is unbiased and objective.

In addition to providing financial planning advice on different topics in this column once a month, I will also be answering your questions in one column a month. Send your questions to my email, and I will answer as many as I can. I look forward to hearing from you!

Nancy is an certified financial planner who splits her time between Summit County and Montgomery, Texas. Her email is

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