Managing personal finances today is more complicated and more important than ever. We see our money being drained by the high cost of housing, taxes, education and health care. We worry about the future, or unfortunately in many cases, simply try not to think about it.
Effective financial management does involve certain procedures that you don’t automatically learn from your parents or associates — and they certainly aren’t taught in our schools. It’s more than just a matter of gathering enough information and then making a logical decision.
- Goal Setting: Before you begin the financial planning process, ask yourself what’s important to you, financially and personally. This is a key element of planning your future; it affects your decisions and choices.
- Financial Independence and Retirement Planning: A comfortable retirement, perhaps at an early age, is one of the most common reasons people become interested in financial planning. Determine what is a reasonable level for your financial independence and how to make it a reality.
- Major Expenditures Planning: A home, a car and your child’s college education — these are all “big ticket” items that are best planned for before you have to pay the bill. Develop financial strategies for effectively achieving your biggest objectives.
- Investments Planning: For most of us, wise investing is the key to achieving and maintaining our financial independence, as well as our other financial goals. Establish your investment goals, assess your risk tolerance, and then select an asset allocation model that best fits your goals, your style and most important your needs.
- Tax Planning: Your financial planning should include tax considerations, regardless of your level of wealth. Proactively take advantage of opportunities for minimizing you tax obligations.
- Insurance Planning: Decide what to self-insure and what risks to pass off to insurance companies and at what price.
- Estate Planning: Develop or update your estate plan. If you die without an up-to-date estate plan, the distribution of your assets can become a time-consuming and costly financial challenge for your loved ones and survivors.
No matter how large or how modest, everyone has an estate and something in common—you can’t take it with you when you die. When that happens you probably want to control how those things are given to the people or organizations you care most about.
To ensure your wishes are carried out, you need to provide instructions stating whom you want to receive something of yours, what you want them to receive, and when they are to receive it. You will, of course, want this to happen with the least amount paid in taxes, legal fees, and court costs.
Estate planning needs to:
- Include instructions for passing your values (religion, education, hard work, etc.) in addition to your valuables.
- Include instructions for your care if you become disabled before you die.
- Name a guardian and an inheritance manager for minor children.
- Provide for family members with special needs without disrupting government benefits.
- Provide for loved ones who might be irresponsible with money or who may need future protection from creditors or divorce.
- Include life insurance to provide for your family at your death, disability income insurance to replace your income if you cannot work due to illness or injury, and long-term care insurance to help pay for your care in case of an extended illness or injury.
- Provide for the transfer of your business at your retirement, disability, or death.
- Minimize taxes, court costs, and unnecessary legal fees.
- Be an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Your plan should be reviewed and updated as your family and financial situations (and laws) change over your lifetime.