Sounds like homework but the grades you earn could change your life. Words by Chuck Ealey, from The Wave 94.7 FM

What is a financial plan? Why do you need one? Good questions – and the answers should be as personal as your fingerprints. That’s because, even though financial planning might be perceived as a catch-all term for a set of steps and actions aimed at achieving financial security, your plan must be precisely designed for your unique situation and life goals. But to get you started in the right direction, here is a general answer to the first question: What is a financial plan?

  • A financial plan can include: investment planning, cash flow planning, insurance planning, estate planning, retirement planning, and tax planning.
  • To be successful, your plan should be developed according to the financial planning process, which includes:
  • Goal setting – to establish and prioritize your goals and concerns.
  • Data gathering – assembling all your financial info to understand your current financial situation.
  • Financial analysis – using your current and projected financial situation to find the best ways to reduce your taxes, assure you will have enough income to cover your expenses during retirement, meet your ongoing income needs, protect your family and income if you become disabled or die unexpectedly… and uncover any other personal financial questions that need to be answered.
  • Plan formulation and recommendations – discuss, review and decide on alternatives and solutions for achieving your financial and life goals.
  • Plan implementation – the steps you need to take to make your plan work.
  • Monitoring and plan review – you should review your plan at least annually or when major life events occur by looking at your important life goals, investment portfolio and performance, cash and savings management history, lifestyle protection (insurance), retirement planning, estate planning, and tax minimization strategies.

So, in a nutshell, that’s what a financial plan is. Now, to answer your second question: Why do you need one? That’s easy: If you have an income, a family (or the hopes of one), dreams of a comfortable retirement, or any of the dozens of other personal financial or life goals, you need a financial plan!

Describing a financial plan is one thing, putting together a successful plan tailored specifically for you is another – and it can be a complex process. Your professional advisor can help you develop the plan that works for you and keep it on track to meet your everchanging needs.