Investing Without Financial Plan and Goals

In times of plenty, we seek safe haven for surplus cash that will generate passive income for the future. In times of need, some of us take desperate steps to increase our money supply to meet the demands of the day. Both actions necessitate investment decisions, decisions that many of us are oftentimes not qualified nor experienced to make wisely without help. Thus, begs the need to know the answers to the four “wives” (why, when, where, who) and one “husband” (how) questions with respect to investing and financial planning. This article will discuss the two most important pre-requisites to making wise investments.

As a licenced financial planner and a business and financial advisor to small and medium companies, I am often asked to give investment tips or advice. Whether I am a fantastic investment guru or tipster or not is immaterial as I would always avoid answering such questions without knowing and understanding the financial background, status and financial goals of the questioner. This article is not intended to be a primer in investing or financial planning as one can select a book on the subject in any good high street or online bookstore. Rather, I would like to share what I consider to be the top two amongst the many pre-requisites an investor should consider before making an investment decision.

1. Have a Financial Plan with SMART goals

Planning in general is an activity we engage in all the time – planning for a holiday, planning for a wedding, or planning for any other event or planning to achieve a particular objective. However, how many of us really get involved in developing a truly comprehensive personal financial plan and implement the same? If not, why not?

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc (CFPBSI) defines financial planning as “the process of meeting your life goals through the proper management of your finances”. Life goals are goals dear to us that we would like see come to pass, especially during our lifetime. Such goals can be as simple as saving to buy a car or for a cruise around the world, or a bit more challenging in investing to mitigate the effects of inflation in planning for retirement.

In goal setting, it is imperative that we be rational and do not set goals that will be too difficult to achieve in the timeframe required else we can be truly discouraged and discard the plan altogether. Thus, it is good to follow the SMART principle, taught in Management 101, which states that our goals should be Specific (say, save to buy our particular dream car), Measurable (say, save $50,000 to buy a car), Achievable (say, plan to buy a car costing a sum we can afford), Realistic (as in planning to buy a car and not a trip to the moon although it can come true for some), and Timely (say, achievable within a reasonable time period).

Knowing our SMART financial goals will enable us to plan how to achieve them. If we are not sure how to develop a financial plan that is workable for us, we can seek the services of a financial planner. A point to note is to ensure that we consult a financial planner that is adequately qualified (say, having the CFPBSI’s Certified Financial Planner certification that is recognized worldwide) and experienced (and perhaps licenced to practice as a financial planner by the appropriate authorities to ensure accountability and ethical behavior).

2. Understand your personal financial risk profile

Prior to making any investment decisions, it is necessary that we understand ourselves in relation to our individual financial risk profile. All of us take risks in our daily lives and these could include crossing a busy street, or taking a flight somewhere, or even getting married considering the increasing number of separations/divorces. It is important to note that different people have different thresholds in the level of risk they are willing to take for any number of reasons.

Assuming a risk that we are not prepared or capable to cope with may result in adverse consequences and detrimental to our health. Similarly, the level of financial risk we are willing to assume or can tolerate should be carefully evaluated and such an exercise will normally be based on a set of criteria relevant to each individual. In addition, the risk profile of an individual can change as his or her personal status changes and it is generally accepted that a younger person can assume a higher financial risk compared to a person nearing retirement as the former has time to accumulate or recoup losses due to investment decisions not realizing their desired potential.

Thus, it is wise to understand our financial risk appetite and risk profile so that the investment decisions we make will commensurate with our risk profile. Investment opportunities abound in the marketplace for all risk profile types, whether one is considered a conservative or can take high risk.

In summary, the above are what I consider the two essential pre-requisites to investing and the others mainly pertain to details in understanding investing, investment strategies, and investment opportunities that can be found in any good investment text books or articles, advice from investment professionals or financial planners, or perhaps can be the subject of a follow-up article by this writer. A last piece of advice is to re-emphasise the fact that we should not make any investment decisions that can adversely impact our financial well-being until we have a sound financial plan, and if professional advice is required, do always consult a qualified and licenced financial planner to help develop one’s personal financial plan. Always remember this well-known adage – FAILING TO PLAN IS PLANNING TO FAIL.

Understanding Financial Planning

Financial planning is defined as a process whereby an individual or a couple settles objectives, assesses all resources and assets, estimates any future financial needs, and makes necessary plans to achieve any monetary goals they may have. It includes a variety of factors, such as cash flow management on a daily basis, selection and management of investments, as well as insurance needs. There are numerous elements that are involved with financial planning. This includes items such as risk management, allocation of assets, investing, estate planning, retirement planning, and tax planning. The strategy that is created offers a tailored approach that satisfies any present financial concerns as well as offer financial security for the future.

When a person wants the most out of the money they earn, this tool can play a starring role in achieving that outcome. Through careful financial planning individuals or married couples are able to set certain priorities and work toward achieving any long term goals they have set forward. It also provides a bit of a safeguard when it comes to the unexpected, such as income loss, unexpected illness, or work-related injuries.

No two people will look at financial planning the same, because everyone has different ideas regarding what their it will encompass. For some individuals, financial planning means finding investments that will offer security once a person or a couple retires. For other people, it is making investments and saving to have money ready for when children go off to get a university education.

When going about financial planning, it is best to obtain the services of a professional financial planner. Financial planners offer guidance and advice when it comes to any issues regarding financial planning. With life being complicated and sometimes hectic, it can be difficult to find the necessary time to manage future financial affairs. Not only that, but financial planning is often a multi-disciplinary task that “Average Joe’s” are just not capable of understanding. A financial planner will look at the current situation of a client and all future objectives. They will analyze the current financial status of the client and then recommend a financial plan that will suit both present and future needs.

Details of the financial plan may include retirement plan contributions, portfolio of investments, a budgeting plan for all current living expenses, and projected savings growth.

Unfortunately, many people delay in preparing for the future as they are too busy maintaining their current financial situation. No matter what a person’s income level is or their future plans, financial planning is essential to any future goals. With the assistance of a financial advisor, any individual can implement successful financial goals. They will also aid in maintaining the necessary discipline to stick with the plan. And do not worry if there are changes to a personal situation, such as a birth of a child, financial plans are not written in stone. The financial planner will aid in changing things around to ensure everything is properly maintained and a person’s financial future is properly taken care of.

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Our wide range of services include accounting, bookkeeping, tax preparation, tax planning, IRS problem resolution, and all areas of financial and estate planning. We are a certified QuickBooks Pro Advisor and can work with clients with all aspects of implementing and perfecting accounting software performance in the business environment. Our services are designed to assist companies with the obstacles they encounter in order to help their businesses run smoothly and efficiently.

Financial Planning Helps You Make Your Money Count For The People You Love

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make when it comes to financial planning is to ignore it completely or put it off for so long that the big benefits of financial planning expire worthless. The earlier you start planning the more bang you’ll get for your buck, however, financial planning is valuable at any age.

Most people put off thinking about planning because of misconceptions about what the process involves or how it can benefit them. As part of its public education efforts, Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. (CFP Board) surveyed CFP® professionals about mistakes people make when approaching financial planning. The survey showed the public’s most frequent mistakes included:

· Failing to set measurable financial goals.

· Making a financial decision without understanding its effect on other financial issues.

· Confusing financial planning with investing.

· Neglecting to re-evaluate their plan periodically.

· Thinking that planning is only for the wealthy.

· Thinking that planning is for when they get older.

· Thinking that financial planning is the same as retirement planning.

· Waiting until a money crisis to begin planning.

· Expecting unrealistic returns on investments.

· Thinking that using a planner means losing control.

· Believing that financial planning is primarily tax planning.

Make Your Money Count with A Plan

To avoid making the mistakes listed above, realize that what matters most to you is the focus of your planning. The results you get from working with a planner are as much your responsibility as they are those of the planner. To achieve the best ROI from your financial planning engagement, consider the following advice.

Start planning as soon as you can: Don’t delay your financial planning. People who save or invest small amounts of money early, and often, tend to do better than those who wait until later in life. Similarly, by developing good financial planning habits, such as saving, budgeting, investing and regularly reviewing your finances early in life, you will be better prepared to meet life changes and handle emergencies.

Be realistic in your expectations:Financial planning is a common sense approach to managing your finances to reach your life goals. It cannot change your situation overnight; it is a lifelong process. Remember that events beyond your control, such as inflation or changes in the stock market or interest rates, will affect your financial planning results.

Set measurable financial goals: Set specific targets of the results you want to achieve and when you want to achieve them. For example, instead of saying you want to be “comfortable” when you retire or that you want your children or grandchildren to attend “good” schools, quantify what “comfortable” and “good” mean so that you’ll know when you’ve reached your goals.

Realize that you are in charge:When working with a financial planner, be sure you understand the financial planning process and what the planner should be doing to help you make your money count. The planner needs all relevant information on your financial situation and your purpose (what matters most to you). Always ask questions about the recommendations offered to you and play an active role in decision-making. Being in charge means your financial planner doesn’t take all the responsibility for every decision.

Understand the effect of each financial decision and the big picture: Each financial decision you make can affect several other areas of your life. For example, an investment decision may have tax consequences that are harmful to your estate plans. Or a decision about your child’s education may affect when and how you meet your retirement goals. Remember that all of your financial decisions are will impact the big picture of your overall plan. This is where the skills of a professional financial planner can make a big difference.

Re-evaluate your financial situation periodically: Financial planning is a dynamic process. Your financial goals may change over the years due to changes in your lifestyle or circumstances, such as an inheritance, marriage, birth, house purchase or change of job status. Revisit and revise your financial plan as time goes by to reflect these changes so that you can stay on track with your long-term goals.

Successful planning offers many rewards in addition to helping you Make Your Money Count and achieving what matters most to you. When CFP® professionals were surveyed about the most significant benefit of financial planning in their own lives, the top answer was “peace of mind.” Over my career, many clients have told me that their purpose for financial planning is the same – peace of mind. When you invest the time and money to work with a competent and trustworthy planner, you are far more likely to go to bed at night knowing you did everything possible to make your money count for the people you love.

For more information on financial planning, call CFP Board toll-free at 800-487-1497 or visit http://www.CFP.net to request a FREE Financial Planning Resource Kit.

Financial Planning – A Road Map to a Secure Financial Future

Would you leave on a trip to a new destination without a map? What if your destination is a successful financial future? Without a map, would you know how to get there?

Financial planning provides a road map for your financial life. It can make the journey less stressful, more fun, and more successful. And, you can start right now – even if only a few steps at a time.

In today’s uncertain economy, financial planning has become increasingly important. With an overwhelming number of options for saving and investing, managing your finances can be difficult. Creating a financial plan helps you see the big picture and set long and short-term life goals, a crucial step in mapping out your financial future. When you have a strategy and a financial plan, it’s easier to make financial decisions and stay on track to meet your goals. Working with a CFP CM professional can secure your financial wellbeing and give you peace of mind and help you reach financial planning success.

Some people decide to do their own financial planning, but you may want to seek help from a Certified Financial Planner CM professional if you:

Want to better manage your finances, but aren’t sure where to start.
Don’t have time to do your own financial planning.
Want a professional opinion about the plan you’ve developed.
Don’t have sufficient expertise in certain areas such as investments, insurance, taxes or retirement planning.
Have an immediate need or unexpected life event.

Destination: Setting Goals
Financial planning starts with setting goals. After all, you need to know where you want to go before you can decide how to get there. Your goals can be short-term – for example, paying a credit card debt in six months; medium-term – such as saving for a down payment on a house in two years; or long-term – such as sending your kids to college in 15 years or your retirement. Write your goals on paper, including rupee terms and dates. Keep the list in sight so you can refer to it for motivation as you keep working toward your goals.

Starting Point: Where Are You Now?
Next, get a realistic picture of where you are financially. List everything you owe (liabilities) and the value of everything you own (assets). Also, track your monthly income and expenses in a notebook or on a budget form. Even if it’s not a pretty picture now, that’s OK. You’ve faced your financial situation, and financial planning will help you improve the picture.

Avoiding Potholes: Insurance, Debt, Job Loss, Taxes and Estate Planning
Financial potholes will inevitably come your way – stock market downturns, recessions, losing a job, wrecking the car, paying for an illness. You may not be able to avoid these potholes, but you can minimize their financial impact. Here are a few suggestions:

• Have adequate insurance. Insurance prevents financial catastrophes, so don’t put off getting it. Insure what you cannot comfortably afford to replace. For most people, that means having the following insurance: auto, renters or homeowners, liability, health, disability and life insurance (if someone depends on you financially). Take advantage of insurance offered to you at your job and supplements it with insurance you buy on your own. Shop for the best price, but make sure you buy from a reputable, financially sound insurance company.

• Control debt. Having a lot of debt puts you at financial risk. If you’re spending more than you earn, start using a budget to plug spending leaks, and make paying off your credit cards a top priority.

• Job loss. You can’t control the economy or a company layoff, but you can control how much time you invest in keeping your skills sharp and in meeting people who may help you find a job in the future.

• Taxes. Computer software can help you find deductions on your tax return. However, if your financial situation is complex, you may benefit from working with a tax or financial professional who can suggest tax strategies and make sure you are getting all of the credits and deductions due to you.

• Estate planning. Every adult should have these four basic documents: will, general durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney and a living will (also called a medical directive). A financial planner can guide you and refer you to an estate planning attorney to draft these documents.

There are many benefits of financial planning. If any of the above questions apply to you, it may be time to call a Certified Financial Planner CM professional to help you reach your financial goals and achieve financial success.

The Power of Financial Planning

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” (Warren Buffet)

As a financial life planner, my underlying assumption is that planning is a “good” thing. Planning is widely acknowledged to be a pre-requisite for business success. However, Benjamin Franklin’s advice that “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” frequently falls on deaf ears in the personal environment.

This is usually, in my experience, because people feel they have neither the time nor the skills for personal financial planning; nor do they want to spend money on hiring a professional financial planner. And a few people I have met have such confidence in their ability to make and retain significant fortunes that personal financial planning is deemed unnecessary, even spineless.

So this article is about why financial life planning is important. I will share with you some of the current approaches to planning, show you how to plan in practice and highlight the outcomes.

To plan, or not to plan?

I am passionate about planning because it leads to success. I recall my first sales job in financial services, cold calling to make appointments to sell insurance. I had an excellent manager who made me plan my target market, pitch, call strategy, everything. The first call I made was spot on, leading to an appointment in minutes. I knew it was going to work, my manager knew, my colleagues knew. And it did.

So why should we plan our lives and money? In my view, for four reasons:

1. To develop a practical framework for running household finances

2. To achieve profound goals as fast as possible

3. To ensure long term financial security

4. To deal with life’s setbacks

Lets look at each of these in turn.

1. Financial framework

Many people today lack a financial framework or system. When it comes to expenses, the core of financial planning, we often enter a fantasy world. Even if families can give a reasonably accurate set of current financial statements (assets, liabilities, income, expenditure and estate), they are rarely able to project what those statements will look like ten years, or even five years into the future.

Financial planners will usually tell you that clients come to them for these reasons:

‘We are not fully in control of our finances’
‘I don’t understand money; all I feel around money is fear and anxiety’
‘We don’t know where we are now or where we will be in the future’
‘We seem unable to live the lifestyle we aspire to’

When families do achieve clarity it usually provides great relief, even if the picture does not look good. They at least know where they stand and can take appropriate action.

2. Goals

Unfortunately, we live in an era where wealth is frequently generated for its own sake, rather than as the means to live a fulfilled life. Money is used to make more money – it becomes a proxy for the ego, and financial decisions are often made to protect or massage our egos, not to support the achievement of our deepest life goals.

Life and money are deeply intertwined. Identification of clear life goals is essential to provide direction, and enables sound financial decisions to be made. So when asked to comment on an investment someone is considering, I always pose another question: “Will investing in this product enable you to achieve your goals more quickly and efficiently?” Very often the answer is that it won’t.

3. Long-term security

The impact of increasing longevity on family finances is profoundly important. The keys to addressing this are the Three Drivers of Financial Freedom: savings, compound interest and asset allocation. While saving implies a reduction in spending, and potentially the hijacking of those important and immediate life goals, financial life planning can help to resolve these difficult conflicts between the short and long term.

4. Dealing with the unexpected

Life will have kicked you in the teeth in the past and it will do so again in the future. Accept it, and plan for it. Life can throw a huge range of fastballs at us, from the irritating yet not too serious car breakdown to the death of a close family member. Put in place contingency plans centred around a Security Fund and insurance. No one likes insurance (though I have yet to meet a widow who complained her husband was over insured).

Freedom

What you are really going to achieve from well-formulated goals and a structured, considered life and financial plan to achieve those goals can be clearly expressed in one word – freedom.

Freedom is a central theme of my work, so what exactly is it? True freedom comes from defining and setting boundaries and living a life dedicated to achieving your goals within those boundaries. Greater freedom comes from personal growth, the means by which we can expand our boundaries.

Lianne’s story illustrates this perfectly. A mother of two on a modest salary, Lianne had gone through a difficult divorce and when she first came to me for help, she was consoling herself with a compulsive spending habit.

However, her goals were to love, support and educate her children and to be a really good mother to them to compensate for the breakdown of the marriage. I worked with her to plan her boundaries. We established her life goals, tackled her spending and developed an annual spending plan.

One Monday morning she called me to talk about her weekend. She had taken the girls to London to see a concert and had done so without any feelings of guilt or anxiety over money. It had been in her plan. She had achieved her goal of bringing happiness and fun to her children. Within her boundaries she had achieved real freedom, to be there in the moment with her children, simply to be.

It’s the process that matters

Plans rarely survive contact with reality, to misquote Moltke. Reality for many of us can cause a change of direction. However, the process of planning is as much a benefit as the plan itself, often more so.

There are a number of planning processes around, often developed by professional bodies such as the Financial Planning Association or the Kinder Institute in the US or the Institute of Financial Planning in the UK. My own process is a six-stage process for called FUTURE:

Foundation: a full inventory and analysis of your life, including assumptions and an analysis of your risk profile
Utopia: establishing what you want to have, to do, to be
Transformation: identifying and dealing with the obstructions on the road to utopia
Utilisation of resources: establishing the best option for your existing resources
Roadmap: creating the plan to get you from where you are now to where you want to be
Execution: implementing and living the plan

Having developed a plan it is important that you continue to monitor and renew the plan each year. Planning is dynamic, a habit, not just a couple of sheets of paper to be drawn up then relegated to the bottom draw and forgotten.

The fruits of the process

We all in the financial community trust our processes, because we know they bring results, results that are more than just a written plan.

Initially you will develop a personal inventory of your life. This will include a detailed set of accurate financial statements comprising a schedule of assets, liabilities, income and expenditure, as well as data about yourself and the environments you inhabit.

Self-understanding builds on this base and by the time you are well into the process you should be able to articulate your deepest and most profound goals. In doing so, you will find yourself energised, focused and far sighted.

Finally, you will learn about money. If you are working with a coach or adviser you will have a raft of financial principles and products explained to you. If you are alone on this journey you will need to educate yourself, and there are plenty of resources out there to help.

What is the alternative to planning? Well, you can wing it; with a good deal of chutzpah, a hefty dose of confidence, a wing and a prayer and a bit of carpe diem you might well achieve great things, and get a real thrill and sense of achievement when you do. However, I do believe in the importance of living in the moment. The present is where we can really ‘be’. Crucially, financial life planning will actually help you to achieve this state by removing regrets for the past and fears of the future.

A well-structured plan will give you a thorough understanding of your situation and ensure you always have the right money in the right place at the right time to achieve your deepest life goals.