YOU’RE PLANNING AN INTERNATIONAL TRIP, except this journey leads toward your financial future. You must ask yourself: Where am I now? Where do I want to be? How am I going to map out my path? Will I take advice from peers, blogs or professionals? A successful financial future begins with creating a plan and requires
Setting your destination
Mapping out a path
Keeping your long-term destination in mind.
SET YOUR DESTINATION
Building realistic goals is arguably the most fundamental part of the process. Regardless of whether you are just starting out or are closer to retirement, it is essential to have an idea of where you want to be and the kind of lifestyle you want to live.
Write down your goals (if in a partnership, with your significant other); prioritize and create small milestones along the way.
Before taking to the open skies, it’s time to take inventory. Assessing your financial position involves gathering all of your assets and liabilities. Now you can simply compute your net worth.
Net Worth = Total Assets – Total Liabilities
MAP OUT A PATH
You know where you want to go and have a basic understanding of your net worth. Now:
Create a spending plan (budget) that fits your lifestyle by distinguishing between your essential and discretionary expenses.
If you are spending more than you’re earning, debt management will be key. Start by paying off the debt with the highest interest rate and the lowest balance first.
If you have a positive cash flow, maintain a balance between debt payments and savings. Make sure you are getting the most out of your money. Is the interest rate on your debt higher than the potential returns on investments?
Maximize your savings. First establish an emergency fund, then max out retirement savings (through your employer or IRA). Still have discretionary savings? Consider a taxable investment account.
While cruising life’s highway, it’s important to be mindful we will not always be able to take the fastest route to our destination.
You cannot plan for every event, but you can mitigate your personal risk exposure with an emergency fund and/or the appropriate insurance.
KEEP YOUR DESTINATION IN MIND
The trip isn’t always a smooth one. Maintaining a consistent strategy for the long term will help you ride out the waves of turbulence.Assess and maximize your savings strategy.
Review and rebalance investments. Review your financial goals on an annual basis (or as circumstances change).
Consistency is key. Don’t become victim to the tourist trap. For every pit stop you make, the less time you’ll have to enjoy your destination.
Understanding the basics is a good first step to formulating a successful financial strategy. However, a professional financial planner can act as a guide and resource for you along the way.
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