How to Get Your Financial Ducks in a Row
Jim Blankenship, the founder of Blankenship Financial Planning, took some time to chat with us to discuss the importance of preparing for retirement and understanding and being realistic about Social Security benefits.
Many Americans are not prepared for retirement. Life expectancy has increased with advances in technology and healthcare, yet people are not being proactive to make sure they are financially prepared for when they leave the workforce. Financial guru, Jim Blankenship has been in the financial services industry for 30+ years and has helped educate the public about the importance of retirement preparedness and having a financial strategy that sets you up for success. He comments:
“People have to be self-starters in today’s age. The rise of the 401k vs the pension has not treated the average individual very well as they go into their work life with a poor understanding of what they need to do to prepare for their futures. I have a personal financial focus in income tax, retirement planning and Social Security and I started my blog, Getting Your Financial Ducks in a Row, to help educate clients and give them a ‘deep dive’ into more information that can help them get a solid financial plan.”
The Importance of Being a Financial ‘Self-Starter’
Blankenship started his career in information technology and as his career progressed, he realized he was looking for someone to provide him with financial advice. Most of the advisors he spoke to were either product-focused or had high minimums, so he educated himself, got certified as a financial planner, and developed niche expertise to give his clients a more in-depth understanding about finance. The people he works with tend to be more diligent with their finances, although through his blog and books he is spreading the word to all Americans about the importance of fiscal preparation. He notes:
“There are really two answers when it comes to people saving for their futures; people who are preparing and people who are not preparing. I see much more detail about the people who are planning, but I get commentary through the blog and Twitter that there is a large segment of the population that hasn’t done well in terms of saving for the future. It’s kind of a conundrum as people in better shape financially are more likely to seek out a financial advisor as they are inherently planners who are looking for validation and tweaks.”
To be successful with retirement planning, it’s helpful to consult with a professional advisor, Blankenship stresses. He says there is a “formula for portfolio management” and that everyone needs to consider the following:
- What does their current portfolio look like?
- What is their source of income?
- What are their income requirements going into retirement?
Taking the time to figure this out with the help of an expert and educating yourself with a ‘critical eye’ can save you thousands. In Blankenship’s opinion, one of the best things you can do for your future is to “take the sum of all the parts and boil it down to the habits as developing and implementing good habits will make you successful over time.”
Take Advantage of Social Security Retirement Planning
Social Security Planning is one of the main topics discussed in Financial Ducks in a Row as Blankenship says “there is a thirst for this kind of information and knowledge in one place — especially with some of the changes in the last ten years or so and laid out in a way that makes sense.” His book, A Social Security Owner’s Manual, helps readers navigate Social Security retirement benefits.
He discusses that many people are doing their Social Security retirement planning wrong for a number or reasons, including they are relying too heavily on the benefit, they don’t know how to time claiming benefits to their advantage, and they are not aware of all the benefits available to them. The book was created to help people better understand options, learn how benefits are calculated and learn how to maximize benefits available to spouses to ‘wring every possible dollar’ from the available benefit structure. Recently updated in 2019, the book discusses all the changes brought about by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 so that readers have the latest information on available strategies.
Build a Solid Financial Plan With the Help of a Professional
The mistake people often make is that they become far too conservative and they don’t have the ‘big-picture’ of their finances or know how to diversify their investments for where they are in life. It can be “eye-opening” to actually track expenses and come up with a tangible plan to prioritize savings, according to Jim. It’s also vital to have someone who can advise on how to produce income for required expenses and future financial needs with inflation in mind, whether through specific investments, planning or savings tactics. Blankenship makes a good point that “if you are doing your financial planning wrong, that’s thousands upon thousands of dollars in misplaced savings and investments. Most people don’t really have a good idea on how to get started on the process, so getting the initial process started by finding a professional advisor is the first step toward a more successful financial future.”
About Jim Blankenship:
Jim Blankenship is the founder and principal of Blankenship Financial Planning, Ltd., a financial planning firm providing hourly, as-needed financial planning and advice. A financial services professional for over 30 years, Jim is a CFP® professional and has earned the Enrolled Agent (EA) designation. Jim is also a NAPFA-registered financial advisor, which designates him as a Fee-Only Financial Advisor.
Jim believes that professional, unbiased financial advice is something that all Americans need, at least periodically, to build the brightest financial futures. Holding to this philosophy, Jim is proud to offer high quality, professional financial advice to people from all walks of life. has written three books: An IRA Owner’s Manual, A Social Security Owner’s Manual and Social Security for the Suddenly Single — books that provide comprehensive guides to these vexing subjects.