Let’s start with the basics: a financial plan is simply a roadmap that can help you achieve your financial goals. It’s generally important to have one in place because it can help you get on track financially – and then stay there. It’s always a great idea to consult with a qualified financial advisor who can assist you with creating a financial plan, but it’s also usually possible to follow some steps to establish one on your own. So whether you’re in your twenties and just starting your career or in your fifties and thinking about retirement, this article will walk you through the basic process of building a financial plan that can work for you.
#1: Consider Determining Your Financial Goals
A good first step to generally take is to determine your short- and long-term financial goals. For example, do you want to pay off debt, save for a down payment on a home, or put away money for retirement? Having clear goals can help you stay focused and track your progress. Once you have determined your financial goals, it’s usually easier to create a plan of action to achieve them.
#2: Consider Assessing Your Current Financial Situation
Usually, the next step is to assess one’s current financial situation. This can include identifying your assets, such as savings accounts, investments, and property, and your liabilities, such as credit card debt, student loans, and mortgages. Once you have a clearer understanding of your entire financial situation, it’ll likely be possible to make a budget that can help you manage your money effectively so you can allocate funds toward your goals.
#3: Consider Putting Together a Realistic Budget
To create a budget, one generally starts by identifying their income and expenses. It can be helpful to track your expenses for a month to get an idea of where your money is going. After you get an idea of your spending habits, you might want to make adjustments to your budget to ensure you are living within your means and saving for your financial goals.
#4: Consider Building an Emergency Fund
An emergency fund is generally a crucial component of any financial plan. The rule of thumb is to save up at least three to six months' worth of living expenses in case of an unexpected job loss, illness, or other emergency. Building an emergency fund is usually a top priority for many folks, and perhaps the easiest way to start one is to set up an automatic transfer from your checking account into a savings account.
#5: Consider Investing for the Future
Investing can be an essential part of any financial plan. Whether you want to invest for retirement, a child's education, or other long-term goals, it's generally critical to have a plan in place. As you likely know, there are many different investment options available, such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. It's advisable for one to do their research and determine the investment strategy that best fits their goals and risk tolerance.
The same way you create plans and goals for other aspects of your life, it can be helpful to do the same when it comes to your finances. It’s likely possible to create a plan that works for you and your financial goals if you use the steps outlined in this article in addition to consulting with a trusted financial advisor. And remember, creating a financial plan is not a one-time event. It's an ongoing process that involves continually tracking your progress, making adjustments, and staying focused on your financial goals.