“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”— Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The author of “The Little Prince” was probably not thinking about a financial plan, but his advice is just as relevant to our financial lives as it is to the rest of our lives.
The implication: whether you do it yourself or with the help of a professional adviser, you should create a financial plan, monitor it regularly, adjust it as necessary, and hold yourself accountable.
Build the plan around your big financial goals — retirement, children’s education, and maybe another goal like a second home or extensive travel. Make it comprehensive, addressing budgeting, investing, insurance, tax, estate planning and retirement planning. It should answer questions such as:
• Am I saving enough to afford retirement, and if not, what adjustments can I realistically make?
• Are my investments earning the best possible return given the risk I am taking? If not, how can I build a better portfolio?
• Do I have the necessary estate planning documents (will, powers of attorney, trusts, etc.), and are they accurate and current?
• Do I have too little, or too much, insurance?
• Can I reduce my tax burden?
Because planning is so critical and multi-disciplinary, I spent the past year studying for and earning a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ or CFP® designation. Only a small percentage of financial advisers has a CFP® designation, and even fewer are independent (not beholden to in-house products of a brokerage firm or insurance company). However, you would be wise to use an independent adviser who has a CFP®, or who has expertise in each of the disciplines mentioned above. That way, you are more likely to have a plan that is comprehensive, objective and achievable.
Please, take the time to plan, and then live by it. You’ll maximize the probability that your goals become a reality, not just a wish.