The term ‘financial plan’ is pretty generic – but yours shouldn’t be. Your plan should be as good a fit for your life in the future as it is today, be easily adaptable to the constant changes you’re bound to encounter in the future, and be focused on achieving your long-term life and retirement goals.
To get you started, here’s what you need to know when starting your financial plan.
There is no one-size-fits-all financial plan: Your plan must be a personalized and precise road map of the things you need to do to achieve your current and future goals.
The starting point is a discussion of your financial goals: Your goals may include educating your children, paying off debt, protecting your family, buying a house, planning a holiday or a major purchase, leaving money to your family or a favorite charity, and, of course, funding your retirement.
Get specific: Once you’ve zeroed in on your financial goals, get specific about how much they will cost and how you will meet those goals.
Financial inventory: Then, take an inventory of all that you own and owe including the value of your home, investments and other assets, pensions and the amount of debt you carry (e.g., mortgages, personal loans, credit cards).
With all the right personal information on hand, a financial plan can be developed that gives you:
A snapshot of your current net worth – and a blueprint for increasing your net worth over time by increasing the value of what you own and decreasing the amount that you owe.
A framework for a workable budget that includes your income, expenses, taxes and savings. You want to aim for a budget that gives you a cash flow surplus (meaning you’re spending less than you earn) and not a cash flow deficit (meaning you’re spending more than you earn).
The knowledge about whether you can achieve your goals based on your current assets and savings patterns or what you need to do to meet your goals by increasing savings, changing your investments or delaying the timeline for some of your goals.
Advice on what types of accounts to put your investments in; e.g., RRSPs, TFSAs, or non-registered accounts.
You need a comprehensive and personal financial plan. Talk to a professional advisor with the qualifications, tools and track record of developing financial plans.