Studies show that a financial plan — if it is in-depth — can save us all tons of money. But very few Americans are aware of this fact! A helpful financial plan is one that helps manage details such as savings, investments, planning for retirement, education, emergencies, major purchases and other things like that. There are so many expenses, so why not consolidate them into one cohesive, handleable document or “plan?”
A study conducted by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards shows that only 35 percent of Americans have a plan in place should an emergency arise. The same survey showed that a comprehensive savings plan benefited those even in the lowest income brackets, effectively dispelling the myth that only the rich can benefit from these plans.
“The way you get into the higher income bracket is to have a financial plan,” said Tom Pemberton, a certified financial planner and owner of Charlotte-based DBA Pemberton Financial Planning. The sooner you start making financial decisions, the sooner you know where you want to go. And if you have a plan to get there, you are more likely to attain it. But, if you’re still not convinced:
Don’t have goals? Fin-plans can help you make ’em
The first step to making a plan is, er, figuring out what plan you want to make. Sometimes just sitting down to complete this exercise is enough to jog your mind about what it is you aspire to financially and how you plan to get there. And no, you can’t just think about this at the grocery store or while out for a jog. The act of sitting down and making “a day of it,” makes all the difference in the world.
Got some goals now? Fin-plans will tell you if they’re realistic
You can get a financial planner to do what is called a “cost-benefit” analysis (or do it yourself if you’re bold enough!) to see if you have realistic goals or if owning 30 private jets is just simply not in the cards for you. But generally, according to Pemberton, “it’s usually not that the goals aren’t attainable. It’s that the [allotted] timeline isn’t attainable.” People very often underestimate how long it will take to save. And especially in this climate, it most likely takes longer than you expect to save for that house or for that retirement!
Now, get these goals of yours rollin’, through savin’
Once you have goals — and have made them realistic — you now need to find a way to get your act together, financially speaking. In what manner, and how much, do you need to save in order to reach your goals? You need to ask yourself (or your financial planner) this question. You can’t spend more money than you take in. That one is a no-brainer. But going in-depth and really analyzing your expenses comprehensively often surprises people. Pemberton notes that people often say things like “‘I had no idea I was spending that much on Starbucks!”
Keeping track of progress
Once you get the ball rolling, you’ll likely want to see how fast it is rolling every so often. Just like once you start hitting the gym, you begin looking obsessively in the mirror three times a day to check for a budding six pack (just me? Oops). By setting up measurable, trackable goals, you will know just how well you are doing. Or when you need to tighten the belt even further, and in which areas specifically. Then you can say, a year from now, ‘“Did I accomplish my goals for this year?” Instead of letting it be a guessing game.
Outside help can be crazy helpful
Outside experts are not only experts … they are impartial. Unbiased. And they aren’t going to sugar-coat your financial situation for you. That is, if you are eating sushi every day, you might be too enamored of the food to realize just how damaging that decision is to your finances. Your financial planning expert will let you know, be sure of it! They also can reveal money-making opportunities that you had absolutely no idea even existed. Examples include not taking advantage of flexible spending plans at work or passing up the company 401(k) matching policies that many companies have. Pemberton says that these plans are “a guaranteed 100 percent return on investment.” That sounds pretty good!
Do you know what you’re doing!?
Okay. That sounded dramatic. But do you know, though? Because financial experts can help you see the error of your ways. Things that you never even thought of. That is, you might be taking huge risks that you weren’t aware of. Kind of like driving down a highway in Kansas during a category 10 hurricane (are hurricanes measured in categories? Do they reach 10? I don’t know.) all because you never heard the news’ emergency alert. You are putting yourself in extreme danger. Although this is grim, a lot of Americans don’t provide for things like potential disabilities, injuries or death that could saddle loved ones with loads of debt.
Money, money, monayy
Yep. Devising a financial plan will help you build wealth, too. The CFP Board survey showed that those with a plan also have more money saved and are more likely to pay their credit card bills in full. Notably, even those who make less than $25,000 are more likely to pay their credit card bill if they have a plan than people who make from $25,000 to $49,999 and don’t have a plan — 41 to 26 percent.
So here’s one way to begin
- Set goals.
- Calculate where your money goes.
- Get that employer match.
- Prepare for emergencies.
- Attack toxic debt.
- Invest to really grow your savings.
- Create a “moat” to protect and grow financial well-being.
That’s one of many basic setups (and really just a ‘for example’), but you also never can go wrong by scheduling an appointment with a financial advisor. The expenditure is minimal in comparison to the payoffs!
Financial advisors can help you figure out how to manage your money, meet your financial goals and even build your wealth. You don’t need to be rich to develop a financial plan. You don’t even need to hire a financial planning expert, although they are certainly worth the money and can really straighten out your finances in a clear and manageable way. But, if not, there are a million sources for how to start developing your financial plan, not just the above blueprint. A simple Google search will show you a myriad of financial planning methods. They are all different, but they all have your financial security in mind. So get to it!
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