Creating a financial plan might feel like a pretty intimidating thing to do. What is it, how do you start one, what does it need to include and what goals can it help you reach? Well, financial plans can give you a brilliant foundation to start saving smartly toward any goal you’re looking to reach. So, today, we’re going to give you all the info you need to plan, create and start saving.
What is a financial plan?
A financial plan goes beyond a savings goal. It is a bigger picture plan which takes a range of aspects into account. Your financial plan should not only help you to achieve your short-term goals but also provide a sustainable financial future too.
At a basic level, your financial plan needs to include:
- Your personal information (age, income, tax, dependables)
- Your financial goals
- Big picture overview (whether you have any debt or assets)
- A debt elimination plan
- An investment plan (to build assets)
- Personal insurance
- An estate plan
- Income tax strategies
With all of this information, you’ll be armed with a savings plan which not only makes sense for you right now but that evolves with you.
What questions do you need to ask yourself?
Now you know what you need, we’ll work through assessing each area and the questions you need to ask yourself.
- You financial goals
How much money do you want to save and what for? Is it for a specific purchase (e.g. a house), time in your life (e.g. retirement) or to help you get out of debt? Setting specific goals is really useful for building a realistic plan.
2. Big picture overview
Where do you want your finances to be in 5, 10 or more years? When do you want to retire? What type of lifestyle do you want to retire with? Are you planning on having a family and how might this affect your employment? Really think about what you want your life and bank balance to look like. This will help you set longer-term goals and add time pressure to each stage.
If you do have any debt, how much is it for and what’s the time period to pay it back? If you have high-interest debt then it’s advised to pay this off before embarking on your set financial plan. However, if it is low-interest debt, then this should play into your financial plan. This works the same for credit cards too – if they’re low interest and help your credit score there’s no harm in having them. But you ultimately want to be as free as possible in terms of your finances.
Are you currently investing? And if so, are you investing too much or too little? Assess the value of your investments and think about more reliable long-term investments such as property (rather than stocks). Having a range of income streams means that you can consistently save even if one income stream is not successful during one month.
If you work for yourself and do not have an automatic super contribution, it’s key to put aside some cash for your later life. Consider the lifestyle you’re looking to lead and the money you’d need to live comfortably. This can help you to decide on the % of your total income you allocate to your retirement fund.
Assess your current insurance and whether it will need to change over your lifetime. Whether that be health, house or life insurance. Ensure you have a full understanding of the costs of such insurance and the likelihood of increases as you age.
7. Estate planning
Your estate plan will essentially ensure that you ‘leave a legacy’. It’s a tricky topic but consider what sort of assets you want to leave behind but it can save a lot of stress (and tax) in later life.
8. Income tax
Finally, we have your income tax strategy. Having a clear understanding of this is key to keeping money in your pocket at the end of each year. Take into account all of your income streams and enlist the help of a tax advisor who will be able to guide you on the best way to work with current tax laws.
Creating your financial plan
The sooner you create your financial plan, the better. The previous 8 steps highlight the key areas that need to be considered in your financial plan, but is there anything else you need to think about? Well, yes. It’s all good creating the plan but you need one that you can stick to, that doesn’t leave you in a difficult financial spot in hard times and can be tracked. So here are our final few tips.
Budget your money
Try tracking your spending for a couple of months. This will show you where you spend the most money and where there might be opportunities to save. Of course, life is for living, but if you tend to splash the cash on clothes or nights out too often, it might be a good idea to limit your spending in these areas. Have a rough budget per month for all of your essentials and from here you can work out what’s feasible to save.
Getting hit with financial troubles or an unexpected reason you can’t work is a reality for many people. Key to getting through this is building an emergency fund (before you start a financial plan). This means you always have something to fall back on and that won’t necessarily impact your financial plan.
Lastly, we have tracking. Much like any goal, seeing progress or areas to improve is essential to making it a reality. We would recommend setting up a tracking spreadsheet, going with a bank that has analytics functions or using some simple accounting software to track your expenses and savings. This way you can feel motivated by your progress and have full control over your spending habits.
With all of that said, we totally understand if this process is too overwhelming for some. That’s why we’re happy to help build this out with you or support you through your financial planning journey. Just get in touch today. Or, for more financial tips, check out our blog.