Growing up I would watch my mom pull out her envelope labeled groceries at the market, and observe her draw cash and coupons from her envelope to pay the cashier. She knew what things cost and how to save money. In essence, that was her abbreviated personal financial plan. She hated debt and would talk about how credit cards made people think they had more money than reality. Her message? If you have a financial plan, you have choices.
Having choices and setting goals that are important to you and your family lead to a successful and satisfying future.
Her plan was not only about counting change, she knew my father's take-home pay and had a special envelope for savings toward a family trip. We would drive to Pennsylvania to visit my grandparents and cousins. She had a system she believed in that effectively managed our household finances.
These days the envelopes may be an online financial reporting system like Quicken or an app such as mint.com. We spend a lot of time planning for weddings, careers, having children, taking a vacation, but how many truly have a financial plan? A financial plan provides a roadmap to help you navigate and achieve your dreams.
Do you want to retire comfortably, start a business, volunteer for the Peace Corps or simply own a new home? These are a few of the goals that may be important to you and each has a price tag and trade offs.
This is where financial planning comes in. It helps you see the big picture. It's a process that provides clarity to make wise decisions around your choices and goals. You can then identify strategies tailored specifically to your individual needs based on your resources. This balances competing priorities and shows you how your goals are related. For example: how saving for your kids education or caring for your aging parent might impact your ability to save for retirement. With this new prioritized information, you are likely to make better financial choices, specifically important and suitable to you.
Best of all, knowing your financial life is on track provides enormous peace of mind.
The financial planning process…
We call it the Planning for LIFE Experience (™). Creating a financial plan is not a one-time event. It's a process developed and clarified over time that ebbs and flows as your life and needs change - sometimes slow and contemplative and sometimes fast and furious, but always filled with humanity.
A comprehensive financial plan generally involves working with a financial adviser to:
- Understand your mission, vision, values and goals
- Develop a clear picture of your income, assets and liabilities, evaluating your insurance coverage, your investment portfolios, your tax exposure, and your estate plan around your values and goals
- Help establish and prioritize what goals are important to you with time frame for achieving these goals
- Implement strategies that address current financial weaknesses and build on your strengths and possibilities
- Choose services tailored to meet you financial and life objectives
- Monitor and manage the plan, making adjustments as goals, time frames, and circumstances change.
Staying on track
Your plan should generally be reviewed at least once a year, ideally quarterly. You may need to modify your plan based on personal circumstances or the economy. Here are some events that might trigger a review of your financial plan:
- Your goals or time lines have changed
- You have an immediate or specific financial planning need (e.g., managing a distribution from a retirement account, drafting a will, can you retire)
- You experience a life-changing event such as job loss, divorce, marriage, birth of a child, health concerns, or loss of a spouse
- Your income or expenses substantially increase or decrease through a sale of a business, inheritance, or other means
- Your portfolio has not performed as expected; you are concerned about risk exposure, or unsure about your diversification or asset allocation
- You are affected by the changes in the economy, tax laws or other regulatory events
Don't wait until you are in the midst of a crisis before beginning the financial planning process. The sooner you start, the more choices you may have. The Planning for LIFE Experience (™) can be life changing. Don't let fear, vulnerability or time prevent you from achieving your dreams.
What planning lessons did you learn from your parents? How do you make sure you stay on track?