Personal finance can seem daunting. With so many options for spending and saving, how do you know where to start? A financial plan provides a roadmap to help you manage your money and achieve your goals. By following a few key steps, you can create a realistic plan tailored to your unique situation. With some discipline and persistence, you can then turn that financial plan into positive results.
Can I Do Financial Planning on My Own?
Absolutely! While you can always hire a financial advisor, creating a basic financial plan is something anyone can do themselves.
The key is being honest about your current finances and future goals. Track your income, spending, assets, and debts. List your short, medium, and long-term money aims. Understand your risk tolerance and time horizon for investments. With this foundation, you can craft a written plan to guide your decisions.
Online resources from reputable sources like the SEC provide free financial planning worksheets and calculators. Software and apps can automate parts of the process too. If your needs are simple, there’s no reason you can’t self-guide your finances. Consider consulting a fee-only advisor for a one-time review before implementing your plan.
As life changes, revisit and update your plan regularly. Financial planning is an ongoing process. But the DIY approach offers flexibility to customize your plan as needed. When first starting out, creating your own financial roadmap is an empowering way to take control of your money.
9 Ways to Create a Financial Plan and Stick to It
Crafting a financial plan is the first step, but sticking to it is tough. Changing money habits requires discipline. To turn your plan into positive actions, focus on these 9 tips:
1. Set Specific Goals
Goals provide direction for your plan. Ask yourself: What do I want to achieve financially in 1 year? 5 years? 10+ years? Set milestone targets like saving for an emergency fund, college, retirement, or starting a business. Attach hard numbers and dates to make goals feel real. Review them often to stay motivated.
2. Automate Regular Savings
Don’t count on whatever is “left over” at the end of the month for savings. Automate transfers from your checking account to savings right after payday. Even small automatic deposits add up. This simple habit beats trying to save sporadically.
3. Limit Impulse Spending
Mindless swiping of a credit card leads to overspending. Curb impulses by waiting 1-2 days before purchasing discretionary items. Chances are the urge will fade. Unsubscribe from promotional emails. Hide cards in your wallet to use only when planned. Impulse control saves money.
4. Track Your Progress
Log income, spending, and savings totals each month. Tracking keeps your plan on point. Use a budget worksheet or spending app. Watching balances grow inspires you to stick to smart habits. Celebrate financial milestones and goals met.
5. Pay Down Debt Aggressively
Carrying a credit card balance sabotages savings goals as interest piles up. Create a debt payoff plan with the highest interest debt first. Pay more than the minimum due on loans each month. Knock out debts fast to free up cash and reduce expensive interest costs.
6. Learn to DIY
Skill up on basic home and auto repairs yourself. Performing your own maintenance saves on mechanic and handyman costs. Watch online tutorials to learn. Building financial literacy muscles helps you stick to a budget.
7. Continue Your Financial Education
Read personal finance books and blogs. Listen to money podcasts. Follow financial influencers on social media. Never stop learning. The more financial knowledge you gain, the easier sticking to your plan becomes.
8. Get an Accountability Partner
Talking about money is taboo for many. But speaking up holds you accountable. Share your financial goals and progress with a trusted friend or partner. They can provide feedback and stop you from veering off track.
9. Asset Management
Part of planning your finances is figuring out how to make more money. In comes asset management. An asset manager can help you navigate assets like stocks, bonds, index funds, and real estate. First, they will need to assess your comfort with risk and the number of assets you need to be managed. From there, the asset manager will do all the heavy lifting for you, such as researching market trends and the financial documentation of different corporations.
It’s important to ask what you will be charged for before you agree with an asset management firm. Common fee types include brokerage fees, managed account fees, and the percentage of shared profit. It’s also essential to work with a credible company. Asena advisors can help you in your asset management. Click here to find out more about Asena advisors.
5 Key Tips to Make Financial Planning Work Long-Term
The real payoff comes from sticking to your financial plan consistently over months and years. To keep making progress, focus on these 5 tips:
- Review and revise – Revisit your plan at least annually. Update details to reflect life changes. Tweak goals as needed. Planning is an ongoing process, not a one-time event.
- Automate everything possible – Set up automatic transfers for savings and investments. Use auto-pay for fixed bills. Reduce effort needed to actively manage finances.
- Watch your financial vitals – Follow key metrics like your net worth, debt-to-income ratio, and credit score to gauge financial health. Check them quarterly.
- Learn from mistakes – No plan goes perfectly. When you slip up, get back on track and analyze what went wrong. Continuous improvement matters most.
- Stay positive – Don’t beat yourself up over missteps. Focus on progress made, not perfection. Celebrate even small financial wins.
Turn Goals Into Actions with a Financial Planning Checklist
Creating a step-by-step checklist can keep your financial plan on track. Here are 10 key action items:
- Set your top 1-3 financial goals with target dates
- Calculate your net worth
- Track income and expenses
- Create a budget aligned with your goals
- Set up an emergency fund
- Pay down high interest debts
- Automate savings transfers
- Sign up for retirement accounts
- Review insurance needs
- Consult fee-only financial advisors as needed
Print out this checklist and post it as a reminder. Cross off each step as you complete it.
Managing money may never be truly exciting. But financial peace of mind makes achieving other life goals possible. Staying disciplined about your plan requires work. But taking control of your finances is hugely rewarding, both financially and psychologically.
Review your financial path regularly and get back on track after missteps. The process is iterative. Over time, what once seemed daunting can become a series of habits. Automate mundane tasks. Celebrate milestones reached. Learn ways to improve along the way. Your financial plan can evolve and grow with you.
Should I do my financial planning alone or hire a professional?
For basic financial planning, do-it-yourself is often the best way to start. Online resources make planning accessible for everyone nowadays. Consider consulting a fee-only financial advisor annually for an outside perspective on your plan. But educating yourself is still key – no advisor will care about your money as much you do!
What’s the minimum someone should save from each paycheck?
Aim to save at least 10-15% from each paycheck as an automatic deposit into savings. Even better if you can do 20% or more! Start small if needed, then increase the amount as your financial discipline muscles grow stronger. Time and compound growth will help small regular savings add up.
How often should I review my financial plan?
Review your financial plan and progress at least annually, if not quarterly. Update details like income, account balances, debts owed, etc. Adjust your goals and budget as life situation changes. Financial planning is an ongoing effort, not a one-time activity. Staying current keeps you on track.
What are the key elements of a financial plan?
- Income & living expenses
- Short, medium and long term goals
- Asset & debt summary
- Insurance needs
- Savings & budget targets
- Investment & retirement account details
- Estate planning basics
Cover these areas when creating your written financial plan.
Should I share my financial goals and plan with others?
Yes, sharing your goals and plan with trusted friends or family can provide accountability. But be selective in who you choose. Look for positive people who will support you, not judge. Talking through challenges out loud helps solidify your own thinking too. Just avoid oversharing details publicly on social media.