Chris Everett, founder of Everett Wealth Solutions in Forest Park, released a book last month. “The Prescription for a Healthy Retirement” is a guide to the basics of planning for retirement, something Everett and co-author Shon Peil know a lot about. Everett has been in the business of wealth and financial management for over 30 years.

In that time, Everett said she’s helped people from all walks of life, including those who have “a ton of money” to families that aren’t sure they can afford college, and everyone in between.

And when it comes to financial planning, “there is never a bad time to start,” Everett said.

“The underlying fundamental for everyone is not really knowing what they should know about their stuff,” she said. When she began to put together her advisory process, she realized that what people need to understand before anything else are the details of where they’re starting from.

“We take a deep dive and take a look at what’s going on,” Everett said. Most of the time, she said, people are surprised at what they have.

“Getting clarity is super helpful,” Everett said, because before you can make any changes, you need to understand your baseline.

She compared it to architecture. “You can’t build a house without good architectural drawings, and you can’t have a good financial plan, or make good financial decisions, without a good blueprint in place.”

Discovering where you’re starting from is the first in the four-step process Everett uses to work with clients. In the first step, clients take a look at what they’re currently doing and where they’re leaking money, sometimes without even knowing it.

But even before that stage, Everett has clients fill out a communication profile that helps her understand how an individual processes information, manages change, faces risk and solves problems. She uses an online test that takes about 10 minutes, “as long as you don’t overthink the darn thing,” she said. If she’s working with a couple, such as a husband and wife, she’ll have them both take the test separately because it’s important to know if their thinking aligns or not and how to work with both individuals on a common path going forward.

After that first step, Discover, the next three steps are Understand (including how to plug financial leaks and reduce risk), Choose (how to invest and make good financial decisions) and Implement (act on the personal solutions you’ve chosen).

Almost everyone can benefit from a financial planner or wealth manager, so what’s stopping people?

One misconception people have is that financial managers are only for the super wealthy, a necessity or luxury exclusive to those with a lot of money to manage. But Everett said that’s absolutely not the case.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you have,” she said. “And quite frankly, the less you have, the more important it is. We’ll take your bucket and plug all the holes … and if we can plug holes in your bucket, then even if you only have a small amount that you can contribute [to retirement] on a regular basis, it has a huge impact on you.”

Another reason some people shy away from financial planning, said Everett, is because they’re embarrassed. Perhaps they’ve mismanaged money in the past. Or maybe something beyond their control happened to cause money problems. She mentioned a couple in their sixties who had had medical expenses that set them back. They thought it was too late to figure out how to retire. But it’s never too late to make changes, Everett said, and she helped the couple get back on track.

“They’ll be able to retire and quite well,” she said. “But it took a whole lot of come to Jesus moments about what really needed to happen.”

And ignoring finances or financial problems won’t make them go away.

“If you’ve got a growth on your body somewhere, you need to open up your kimono and say, ‘Look what I’ve got’ in order to get it fixed. The same thing has to happen here,” said Everett. She said she herself was at a point in her life where she was going to lose everything “that had a dollar sign connected to it.”

“It was ugly,” Everett said. “Was it embarrassing? Yes. But you know what, so what? I had to deal with it, and that was thank god a million years ago, and we’ve recovered very well.”

No matter how bad things have gotten, there are ways to improve disastrous financial situations.

“There are always solutions,” Everett said. “And so whether it’s your own fault for making the mistake, or whether outside circumstances happen, there are do overs in life, there are solutions, and there are ways out to the other side. I’m a living testimony.”

Another reason people might avoid hiring a money advisor is because they think they can’t afford it. Everett said her benchmark to decide if she’ll work with someone is whether she’s confident she can financially help that person enough that they’ll recover the fee she charges for her services.

“This way, I’m never overcharging anyone,” Everett said. “And then they’ll refer me. And so I have a good, solid reputation in the community.”

As for her book, Everett says her only regret is not writing it sooner, and she has “at least another book” she plans to write, though for now she’s staying mum on the topic.