I’m sure you hear the term “Financial Planning” on a regular basis but you may not be sure what it really means. Financial planning is an on-going, comprehensive process to manage your finances in order to meet your life goals. The process includes evaluating where you are today, setting goals, developing an action plan to meet your goals and implementing the plan. Once you have addressed all the areas of your financial plan you should go back and review them on a regular basis.
Financial planning should be comprehensive – covering all areas of your financial life. The primary areas of your financial plan should include retirement planning, insurance planning, tax planning, estate planning and investment management. Depending on your situation, your financial plan may also address areas such as budgeting and debt management, college funding, employee benefits, business planning and career planning. Comprehensive Financial Planning is very thorough and can take a lot of time and energy to complete. I recommend breaking it into bite size chucks that can be easily evaluated, understood and implemented over the course of time.
You can work through the financial planning process with a comprehensive financial planner or you can tackle it on your own. If you decide to hire a financial planner, I encourage you to work with Certified Financial Planner who has taken an oath to work on a fiduciary basis. An advisor, who works as a fiduciary, takes an oath to put your interests first.
The first step of the financial planning process is to evaluate where you are today. Tabulate how much money you are currently spending in comparison to your current income. Calculate your current net worth (assets less liabilities). Evaluate the state of your current financial situation. What is keeps you up at night and what should be prioritized for immediate attention?
The next step is to devise a road map on where you would like to go. Think about your values and set some long term strategic goals. Using this information develop some financial goals that you would like to achieve. Once you have identified some financial goals, a plan can be devised to help you achieve them.
Select the area you would like to address first. Most of my clients start with retirement planning and investment management. There is a lot of overlap between the different areas of financial planning but try to work through them in small manageable chunks. Otherwise you may end up with a huge, overwhelming plan that never gets implemented.
Once you have worked through all of the areas in your financial plan you need to go back and revisit them on a regular basis. Some areas like investments, taxes and retirement planning need to be reviewed annually where other areas like insurance and estate planning can be reviewed less frequently. Keep in mind that financial planning is an on-going, life long process.