Financial Planning is the process of reviewing your current financial position, determining what financial goals you have and setting the steps in place to achieve the goals. It is an ongoing process in which sensible decisions are made about your money so that the outcomes are highly likely.
The financial planning process may look at many elements of finance, including wealth accumulation, asset acquisition, management of existing funds, reducing risk, balanced portfolios, family wills, managing the flow of income from a business, budgeting, retirement planning and other areas such as life insurance or income protection.
Some people may want to invest their time into researching the above on their own, drawing up a plan to execute, review and adjust as they proceed. However, we know all too well that paying a professional who does this for a living generally always produces a better outcome than trying to be the expert yourself.
There are a few steps in the process of financial planning which include:
- Goal setting – look at the short, medium and long term
- Asset and liability position – write down all your assets and liabilities
- Assess your income and expenditure – how much money is going to savings or being spent?
- Develop a strategy – engage with a Financial Planner
- Take the plunge – implement the strategy
- Monitor and review your plan at least yearly and make adjustments when needed
By planning your finances to meet your goals you will gain control and peace of mind through knowing whether you’re on track for the future you want for you and your family.
Step 1: Goal setting
Goal setting is an amazing way to paint the picture of where you want to be in the short, medium and long term. You should list all the needs and the wants and categorise them accordingly (e.g. you need $60,000 p.a. to cover the household bills, you want to have a boat to go fishing in). Creating a vision board once your goals are set is a great way to reinforce what it is that you are working towards.
Examples of goals may include:
Short term (less than 12mths)
- Increase income
- Save $20,000 by end of the year
- Set a budget and stick to it
- Remove liabilities (credit cards)
Medium term (1-3yrs)
- Buy an investment property within 2 years
- Start a share portfolio
- Buy a home
- Upgrade family vehicle for planned baby
Long term (up to 5yrs)
- Extract equity from property and reinvest
- Increase super fund balance to $150,000
- Save deposit for home renovation
Retirement planning is another step in the bigger picture and can be planned for now, however the short, medium and long term goals need to be reviewed periodically to ensure you are on track towards the bigger picture.
Step 2: Asset and liability position
It is essential to any financial planning strategy (or finance assessment) that you have a clear understanding of all your assets and liabilities. These should all be summaries in a clear and easy to interpret document so that you can make informed decisions on what is in front of you. Going into any financial planning session without this information is a waste of your time and the planners as little can be established without it.
To be good with your finances, you have to own your finances! Understand your financial situation before you can change it.
Assets and liabilities to consider are:
- Home contents
- Cash savings
- Credit cards
- Study debt (HECS/HELP)
- Personal loans
- Home loans
- Store cards
You should also have detailed knowledge on each of the assets and liabilities so you know as much as possible for your planning.
Step 3: Assess your income and expenditure
In this first step of the financial planning process, you will determine your current financial situation with regard to income and living expenses. There are many great tool to assist you with budgeting but unless you have a clear understanding of what your after tax income is, along with your expenditure, then knowing what you’re able to save and invest is always going to be a guess.
The process of establishing your after tax income is quite simple, just look at your bank account to identify what money hits your account, then multiply that by the number of payments you receive in a year.
The process of establishing your expenditure can take a lot longer to work through but well worth the effort. There are some great tools which can assist you in doing this, however, the good old fashion way of auditing your bank statements will expose you to all your spending, educating you in where your money goes.
To go through your statements, you could look at a 3mth period, categorise each payment into related groups (e.g. groceries, social, insurance, transport, etc.) to obtain an average spending amount. Looking at just 3mths can speed up the review process but will not capture everything like car service, rego, annual payments such as insurance policies or random holidays. So looking at the full year, or at least recording all spending throughout the year in some way is beneficial.
Step 4: Develop a strategy
At this time, you should have all the information you need to engage with a Financial Planner and start working on your own personal strategy and goals.
It is possible for an individual to try develop a strategy for themselves but it would take a huge amount of learning to have the same knowledge and understanding as a Financial Planner does. In the time you’re researching economics, asset classes, investment strategies, return on investment and wealth accumulation milestones, you’ve possibly just lost a lot of valuable investment time.
The trick with wealth accumulation is time in the market to allow the compounding effect grow your asset. So the more time you spend doing nothing, the more wealth opportunity is lost.
We strongly recommend you connect with one of our financial planners as soon as you are ready to get the ball rolling.
Step 5: Take the plunge
After going through all of the above, it is essential that the plan is executed. Many people do all the hard work and then hesitate, ceasing to take the plunge and make it happen. This can often be the hardest step but is the most important.
If you think this is you, then let us know and we will connect you with the professional in our team who can assist you in implementing the strategy.
Step 6: Monitor and review
It is important to know that all assets need to be monitored and reviewed to ensure they are working for you. Depending on your strategy, the review process may be monthly, quarterly or annually depending on the asset class. Your financial planner can guide you on this.
Your Financial Planner may be engaged to do all the monitoring for you which would require ongoing meetings to discuss and review how your portfolio is performing. Some FInancial Planners provide their service based on an hourly rate which means you can engage them as needed with no ongoing fees.
The key to making decisions is to ensure your moving forward towards your goals and not hindering the investments. For example, buying and selling property in a short time frame can be very expensive, therefore if you are not aware of the costs associated or the growth in the property prior to selling, you may end up reducing your wealth. Hence the value of speaking with a trusted professional to ensure your decision are informed before implemented.
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