May 16, 2016

Benefits of Financial Planning

Financial planning allows you to understand how each financial decision you make; affects other areas of your finances.

For example, buying a particular investment product might help you pay off your mortgage faster or it might delay your retirement significantly.

By viewing each financial decision as part of a whole, you can consider its short and long-term effects on your life goals helping you adapt to life changes and feel more secure that your goals are on track.

Tips to achieve the best results from your financial planning:

Set measurable financial goals
 Set specific targets of what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve results. E.g. Instead of saying you want to be "comfortable" when you retire or that you want your children to attend "good" schools, you need to quantify what "comfortable" and "good" mean so that you'll know when you've reached your goals.

 Understand the effect of each financial decision
 Each financial decision you make can affect several other areas of your life. E.g. an investment decision may have tax consequences that are harmful to your estate plans. Or a decision about your child's education may affect when and how you meet your retirement goals. Remember that all of your financial decisions are interrelated.

 Re-evaluate your financial situation periodically
 Financial planning is a dynamic process. Your financial goals may change over the years due to things like an inheritance, marriage, birth, house purchase or change of job status. Revisit and revise your financial plan to stay on track with your financial goals.

 Start planning as soon as you can
 People who save or invest small amounts of money early and often, tend to do better than those who wait until later in life. By developing good financial planning habits such as saving, budgeting, investing and regularly reviewing your finances early in life, you will be better prepared to meet life changes and handle emergencies.

 Be realistic in your expectations
 Financial planning won’t change your situation overnight; it is a lifelong process. Remember that events beyond your control such as inflation or changes in the stock market or interest rates will affect your financial planning results.

Realise that you are in charge
 If you're working with a financial planner, be sure you understand the financial planning process and what the planner should be doing. Provide the planner with all of the relevant information.




As a child my family went on a number of driving vacations. Before leaving, my parents generally contacted AAA and obtained a step-by-step series of maps of our planned route. Typically, each page depicted the route between two major cities: the route from Indianapolis to Louisville, followed by Louisville to Nashville, and so on.

Reaching your financial goals is like a trip. While there are many reasons you need a financial plan, here are six to get you started:

If you don't know the destination, how will you know when you've arrived? A financial goal is something that has a time frame and that can be quantified. An aspiration such as a "comfortable retirement" is hard to plan for. The financial planning process will help you define and quantify your goals.

[In Pictures: 6 Numbers Every Investor Should Follow.]

Determining a proper investment allocation is critical. An outgrowth of your financial plan should be a plan for the allocation of your investment assets across all of your accounts. The allocation should reflect the goals you are trying to attain as well as your tolerance for investment risk.

Are you saving enough? Whether you want to fund your children's college education, save for retirement, or buy a new house, most financial goals mean periodic savings. The financial planning process will help you identify how much you will need to save periodically—and in total—for each of your goals.

What will happen to your assets upon your death? Most of us have someone to whom we would like to pass on whatever wealth we have accumulated during our lifetime. Estate planning is a central part of the financial planning process. Do you need a will or a trust? Are your beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and insurance policies up-to-date? What would happen to your assets if you died today? Is this what you intended?

[See What a Weak Dollar Means for Consumers.]

Are you properly insured? Do you have enough life insurance, and do you have the right kind of policy for your situation? Do you have disability and long-term care insurance? Do you need this coverage? A financial plan addresses all of these issues.

Are you fully using all of the benefits available to you through your employer? This question addresses issues from health insurance all the way to your retirement plan to any types of stock options or company stock benefit you may have access to. Benefits generally range from 30 percent to 40 percent or more of your cash compensation, so understanding what is available to you and how to best use these benefits is crucial.

These six reasons barely scratch the surface of why you need a financial plan. In general, the financial planning process can help you take a thorough look at all aspects of your financial life and organize them in the most efficient fashion for your situation.

[See 7 Ways to Stay Ahead of Inflation in Retirement.]

Finally, do you need to hire a financial planner to do all this? My answer is yes, but I am severely biased. What a good financial planner will do for you that you cannot do yourself is to take an objective, unemotional look at your situation. He will then apply his expertise, training, and experience to your unique financial needs. One last (biased) suggestion: Always hire a fee-only financial advisor, someone who does not earn a commission based on selling you a financial product. This eliminates a huge potential conflict of interest.

Remember: Financial planning is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process. The plan is a base from which to make financial decisions, but the plan can and should change over time based upon changes in your personal circumstances.

What are some other benefits of a financial plan? We'd love to get your thoughts—feel free to leave a comment below.



1. It will help you define your financial goals.

Most financial planners will begin your plan by asking you what your financial goals are. For couples, sometimes doing this exercise alone is enough to get the two partners on the same page. “Most people spend more time planning their vacation than planning for retirement or for their financial goals,” said Pemberton.

2. It will help you see whether your goals are realistic, especially for your timeline.

After taking a look at the goals, Pemberton looks to see how you can get there — how much to save, what types of investments to make. “Then, the planner can do a cost-benefit analysis. Are your goals realistic? Are they attainable? Most of us have more goals than financial resources,” he said, adding that time is a huge factor. “It’s usually not that the goal is not attainable, it’s that the timeline is not attainable,” he said, noting that many goals, such as saving for retirement, a mortgage or a child’s college education and paying off debt, take years to accomplish.

3. It will help you see how you can bring your spending in line with your goals.

Once you know where you’re headed and how long it will take to get there, then you can look at your cash flow to find out if you’re spending more money than you’re taking in. “If you have negative cash flow, there’s no way you can meet your goals,” said Pemberton. The exercise of analyzing expenses often surprises people. “They say, ‘I had no idea I was spending that much on Starbucks SBUX -0.83% or eating lunch out,’” he said.
4. It will show you what money mistakes you’re currently making.

Aside from spending too much, Pemberton says analyzing not just spending but the overall financial picture sometimes exposes mistakes — and easy fixes. Pemberton said, sometimes people look at their credit card debt and say, “I’m paying 18% on interest to a bank. Am I making anywhere near 18% on any of my investments?”

5. It will allow you to measure your progress on your goals.

Once the plan is in place, you can set up measurable goals, such as regularly contributing a specific amount of money toward either savings or debt over a period of time. “Then, I can say a year from now, ‘Did we do what we said we were going to do?’” said Pemberton.

6. It will help you find new ways to maximize your money.

Having an outside expert look at your financial picture might reveal opportunities to make or save money that you hadn’t thought of. Pemberton sometimes realizes that clients aren’t taking advantage of a flexible spending plan at work that allows them to pay for health care expenses using pre-tax dollars. He said, assuming their tax bracket is 28%, “I’ll say, ‘Why aren’t you putting money in your flex spending? If I told you you could buy everything at a 28% discount, wouldn’t you want to?’ And they say, ‘Absolutely.’” Other missed opportunities he sees are passing up the company 401(k) match, which he calls a “guaranteed 100% return on investment.”

7. It will help you identify risks you hadn’t thought of.

Part of a financial plan is looking at risk capacity: What is your risk of becoming disabled and being unable to support yourself or your family, or dying early and saddling your family with an un-manageable mortgage payment?

Pemberton recalled a couple that came to him on top of all their finances. “No will,” he said. “In the state of North Carolina, if one of them was to die and had assets in their name alone, half of those assets would go to that person’s parents, not to their spouse.”
8. It will make you more confident with your money.
According to the CFP Board survey, 52% of those with a plan feel “very confident” about managing money, savings and investments, while just 30% of those without do. Pemberton saud that when he’s finished plans for people, they generally feel in control of their finances, and they also feel a new sense of discipline. He said they feel, “I know what I need to do to achieve my goals. I don’t feel like my life is out of control anymore, but I’m in control.”

9. It will help you build wealth.

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%.

10. It will help you live more comfortably.
Those with a plan are also more likely to say they are living comfortably — 48% to 22%, according to the CFP Board survey. Even more remarkable is that those with a plan making between $50,000 and $99,999 are more likely to live comfortably than even those making $100,000+ without a plan: 50% to 46%.

While you don’t necessarily need to hire an outside person to create a financial plan for you, a lot of people do so to save themselves the time and energy of sifting through a lot of advice, some of it potentially contradictory.

But, as you’ll see, “financial advisor” is a loose term that covers all kinds of people who say they can help you with your money. How to choose among them? Here are ten questions to ask a potential financial advisor.
  http://www.forbes.com/sites/trangho/2016/05/08/how-do-shark-tank-deals-compare-to-vc-investing-in-real-life/#5dc22444e7b1

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