Everyone should have a written financial plan. A written financial plan is a document that assists you to focus on what you want to achieve when it comes to your personal finances. A written financial plan is a living document that should be amended as time goes on.
A written financial plan is an useful tool for everyone. It does not matter if you are a new college graduate (Age 21-28) entering the workforce, a Millennial or Gen-Xer (Age 29-49) who is in mid-career, or a young Baby Boomer (Age 50-65) who might be retired or getting ready to retire soon. The nice thing about writing a financial plan is that it is your custom plan. You get to design and write it to meet your financial situation and aspirations.
Having a written financial plan allows you to see the big picture. It is a way to track short-term goals and make lifestyle adjustments as need be. A written financial plan enables you to track how those short-term adjustments impact your progress as you work towards reaching long-term goals that might not be realized for many decades.
A written financial plan is not just for looking at how your money is invested in your asset allocation. While asset allocation is extremely important, it is only part of a financial plan. If you are interested in learning more about asset allocation, I have written a 4-part series on that topic. A good place to start is by reading 100 Percent Invested in Stocks and the subsequent posts that follow how my asset allocation has evolved during my investing career.
A written financial plan can have many different categories. Start with where you are in life and where you want your written financial plan to take you in the future. Below are some categories and examples to consider:
- Pay off student loans (the party is over, here are the damages)
- Establish an emergency fund (3-6 months of expenses in cash)
- Contribute to 401K (at least enough to get the employer match)
- Pay off mortgage (pay it off in 15 vs 30 years)
- Help children with education (establish a 529 college savings plan)
- Pay off consumer debt (credit cards, car loans, pay-day loans)
- Increase 401K contributions (increase by 1-2% per year)
Young Baby Boomer:
- Down-size house (the kids are gone, hopefully they will not come back)
- Contribute the maximum to retirement accounts (time is no longer on your side)
- Establish a target-date for retirement (5-10 years)
- Select a career field that pays well (think STEM, if you can)
- Get a job (spend more time on indeed.com)
- Become an expert in your field (read, read, read)
- Finding side opportunities to earn extra income (always be earning)
- Advance into management (you now have the experience to lead others)
- Become a partner (lawyers, doctors, accountants, other professionals)
- Buy a business (if you have the entrepreneurial drive)
Young Baby Boomer:
- Advance to a C-title (if you are already a VP)
- Become a consultant (if you have industry expertise)
- Sell the business or your stake in the concern if you are a partner (cash in your chips)
- 25% housing (don’t exceed this amount)
- 15% savings (it sounds ambitious, but you can do it)
- 10% transportation (think Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla)
- 20% towards debt (pay it down ASAP)
- 30% living expenses (live below your means)
- 20% housing (stick with the starter house)
- 35% savings (these are your primary savings years)
- 10% transportation (mini-van for kids)
- 35% living expenses (keep an eye on life-style creep)
Young Baby Boomer:
- 10% housing (this is for maintenance)
- 60% savings (you can see the light at the end of the tunnel)
- 5% transportation (mid-sized model)
- 25% living expenses (spend some money on the grandchildren)
- Apartment insurance (you don’t have much, protect it)
- health insurance (it is as cheap as it is going to get)
- short-term disability insurance (if you have a physical job)
- Home owner’s insurance (get enough coverage)
- Family health insurance (it is no longer cheap)
- term-life insurance (protect you loved ones)
Young Baby Boomer:
- Have a lawyer write your will (don’t create a mess for your heirs)
- Create an estate plan (get professional advice if you are not comfortable)
- Be sure to have health insurance (Medicare kicks in at age 65)
- Keep some cash liquid (keep the first 2-5 years of retirement expenses in cash)
The above categories are just a few to consider adding to your written financial plan. As mentioned earlier, you can customize this plan to your unique situation and goals. Some other options to consider might be plans for continuing education, how volatile your career is during changing economic conditions, family planning, as well as your need to take on market risks due to other income sources such as pensions.
When writing your financial plan, remember to write it in pencil and not in ink. In other words, the one thing that I have found in life that remains consistent is change. Over the course of my life, I have watched people change, work situations change, and economies change. In my own life, I have changed careers, goals, and interests. This is not a ridged manifesto that must be followed to the letter. It is just a guide for you to set goals, track progress, and change direction when needed or desired. Allow yourself to be flexible and enjoy this process.
Do you have a written financial plan?
If you do, what other categories do you have concluded?
How often have you had to make amendments to your financial plan?