This article is going to briefly touch on the main things a financial plan should accomplish. You don’t need a professional to help you draw up your own financial plan, but you might need professional advice and help to put some of your plans into action.
Such as advice on your insurance needs to make sure you, your family and your home are adequately covered, tax advice to make sure you are not paying too little or too much, investment advice to ensure that you can reach the amount you would like to retire with while still putting money aside for your children’s education and advice about what to put or not to put in your will.
Those are the things you should speak to a professional about, but you should have your financial plan worked out before you speak to one so that you can let them know exactly what you wish to accomplish with your plan. Your goal is financial success; your method for reaching that goal is your financial plan.
After you have drawn up your plan is the best time to speak to a professional financial planner. They will be able to let you know whether or not you will be able to accomplish those things in your current situation after looking at your total financial picture.
Your plan must take into consideration all of the goals you have set for yourself in order to achieve financial success. It should also take into consideration, all of the obstacles and things that can go wrong along the way. No one’s life is perfect, things do go wrong, job loss, illness and accidents do happen and should be planned for.
The first thing a financial plan should include is protection for you and your family in the event of disaster. That includes adequate insurance for your family and your property, and an emergency fund.
An emergency fund should be equal to at the very least six month’s worth of take home pay. Actually, most financial experts say that now a days, nine months to a year would be best.
If you do not have your emergency fund now, you should have access to an already established line of credit or credit that is readily available to you that you do not touch for any other reason except for an emergency.
If you lose your job or become temporarily unable to work due to an illness or accident, you will not be able to obtain credit without income. So this is some thing that must be able to be in place now and used only in the event of an emergency, otherwise you will have to save up for your emergency fund a over time.
You should also have life, health, long term disability and property insurance. I am not an insurance expert so I am not going to go into the different types of life insurance available you should speak to a certified financial planner about that. I do know that many experts are now saying that term life is preferable to whole life. It is much cheaper and it accomplishes the same purpose as whole life.
I have been told that many of your payments in the beginning of a whole life insurance policy are basically going to the person who sold you the policy as a commission before the money you put in starts building up.
Many people have health insurance available through their jobs. If you and your spouse both work use whichever plan gives you the best coverage, some jobs also provide life insurance up to a certain amount with extra available if you pay a little more. Be sure to check with your employer.
If you own a home you have to have home owners insurance. You need to make sure that if your home was destroyed by fire or some other disaster that your insurance will cover you enough to replace that home and your possessions in that home. If you rent you should have renters insurance to help cover you in case of an emergency.
You should have a household inventory with serial numbers where applicable and pictures of your possessions wherever possible along with receipts if you still have them in a fireproof box or case along with your other important papers. You should do this whether you rent or own a home.
The next thing a financial plan should accomplish is financial security and a comfortable standard of living for you and your loved ones. If you are married and have children, you need to plan for them as well as your self.
If your parents are still alive, you should find out how well they have planned for themselves so you can make provisions for that if you need to instead of it being a surprise to you should one of them become ill or pass away. If you have siblings you might be able to share the responsibility, otherwise if might all fall on you.
Find that out while you are working out your financial plan so you are not hit with a surprise a few years down the road. Nursing homes are very expensive. That could wipe out their savings very quickly and then go through yours too if you have to help them. A few financial questions and asking them whether or not they have long term care insurance in place; could save a lot of unnecessary problems in the future.
Your plan needs to make sure you are paying all of your household bills and expenses, providing some fun and entertainment money, provide care for all of those who depend on you to give them the security they need and deserve and also to ensure that you don’t short change your spouse and yourself out of your own retirement needs by providing for everyone else.
If funding your children’s entire college education is out of the question, you need to let them know that at an early enough age for them to start their own planning. Let them know approximately how much you will be able to help them and that they will have to get good grades to be eligible for scholarships and grants.
Tell them if a private college is out of the question. Let them know that they will most likely have to go to community colleges or state schools. Talk to them about your financial situation. They might have very unrealistic expectations that you know nothing about because they know nothing about the family’s financial situation.
Let them know that your job is to provide a roof over the family’s head, make sure there is enough to eat, heat and electricity so everyone can be safe and warm and their job is to get good grades to be eligible for as much aid for school as possible.
As long as they know you love them and that you are doing the best that you can for the entire family, they will understand. Explain to them that as long as they do their job, together you will do everything you can to help them fulfill their goals and dreams for the future within your means.
You have to make sure that you don’t get so bogged down in planning for the future for everyone else, you forget to plan for the lifestyle you want to have during your retirement.
Again if paying for college is unrealistic for you, explain to your children that it is not possible for you to do so because if you do you might end up being a financial burden to them when you retire. Let them know you will do what you can.
While the main purpose of financial planning is to have a better future, you also need to make sure you live well today and are comfortable. You won’t stick with any plan that has you feeling deprived and miserable for very long.
The next thing a financial plan should include is preparing for a secure retirement. With people living longer than they used to you have to plan for at least 20 to 25 years in retirement, if not more. You need to have plans for maintaining your standard of living, paying for medical care (with the proper insurance in place) and remaining financially independent of your children (by having investments for income) so you will not be a burden to them.
Your plan also needs to keep taxes in mind. Have your financial planner look over your taxes now to see if you are paying too little or too many taxes. They can also advise you on which type of investments will be best for you tax wise. Some investments have more tax advantages than others.
For instance, with a Roth IRA you only pay taxes on the money that your money makes in the IRA when you withdraw it and not the money that you contributed to it. Even if you withdrew every penny that you put into it, as long as you don’t withdraw the income that your money made you won’t pay taxes on it until you do.
The last thing a financial plan should include is your final provisions, better known as your will. No one likes to think about dying, but let’s be honest we all have to do it sometime. Having your wishes drawn up as well as having the appropriate insurance and financial documents all together can alleviate the stress and anxiety for your family.
Grief over the loss of a loved one is tough enough without adding the burden of financial distress to it. Your plan needs to include a will and all related financial and insurance documents with it and an estate plan or trust that is designed to match your financial situation.
To recap the main things a financial plan should include are an emergency fund, insurance to protect you from disaster, financial security and a comfortable standard of living for you and your family now and in the future, a comfortable and secure retirement that provides for you and does not burden your children, making sure you are paying the right amount of taxes now and that your investments are right for you tax wise also and finally putting your final wishes in writing to make sure they are carried out.
While those should be the main components of a financial plan, there are other things that need to be considered. The stage of life you are at now. If you are in your twenties now you can afford to take more risk with your investments because you have more years to make up for any investment losses. If you are in your forties you might want to be a little more conservative.
Your lifestyle is another consideration. If you are a spender and not a saver you have to be realistic about whether or not you are willing to curb some of that in order to have a better financial future. If you have a problem staying away from the credit cards you need to get a handle on that first. If you are the type of person who spends more than they make in order to keep up the perception that you are successful, your plan will not work.
Your plan needs to fit your lifestyle and not the other way around. If you make a plan that forces you to give up too much of yourself in order to accomplish it, you never will accomplish it. Above all else when it comes to financial planning, you need to be honest about who you are financially right now and whether or not you are willing to make changes to have the financial future you want.
You also need to be honest with your family. If your children are old enough include them in the plan making let them feel like they are a part of it and that your overall goal is the financial health and well being of the entire family. This can help to avoid any disappointments that can come from not knowing what the situation is. Letting your family believe that things are much better financially than they actually are will only cause problems in the future.
Article by Teresa Kaufman.