FORT KNOX, Ky. — World Financial Planning Day is a global event that helps raise awareness of what financial planning can do for an individual or family. While this year’s day has just passed, looking at financial planning should never be a thing of the past.
For instance, do you have a financial plan? If not, assess your current financial situation: Where are you financially and where do you hope to be in the future?
Financial planning is a comprehensive picture of your current finances. It identifies, organizes and prioritizes a step-by-step approach to meeting one’s goals. There are many ways to develop a plan, regardless of the method.
Planning is the key in leading you down the path to financial success. Here are some components of a good financial plan:
1. If you don’t know where to begin, read a financial article, watch a financial video, or work with an ACS financial counselor to help you to start to develop your plan. Visit Securing the Financial Frontline or MilSpouse Money Mission for more resources, checklists, videos, etc.
2. Start a money journal and record specific goals: short, medium and long term. Specify your goals. What do you want your life to look like in five, 10 or 20 years? Weigh priorities, and determine the best course of action for you.
3. Create or update your spending plan. Do you have a workable spending plan? Have expenses changed in the last few months? Are you tracking your spending?
4. Organize your financial files, important documents and account statements. Are they all in one place and easy to access? Are they up-to-date?
5. Check your bank accounts to ensure deposits and pending bills are correct.
6. Are you getting the best deal? Review what you are paying in finance charges and interest rates on financial loans or lines of credit and credit cards.
7. Pull your credit report annually to determine if improvements are needed. What is your score: is it good, bad or ugly? What can you do to improve your credit score? Has your credit been compromised? Is there inaccurate information that needs to be disputed? A reliable source to check is Annual Credit Report.com.
8. Manage high-interest debt, and create a plan to pay it off as quickly as possible. Prioritize and determine what debt to pay off first (i.e. highest interest or highest balance).
9. Try automatic savings. Most banks and credit unions have ways to automatically transfer funds from your checking to your savings accounts on a recurring basis.
10. Retain an emergency fund. Unexpected things happen when you least expect it. Strive to save enough for 3-6 months expenses for emergencies to avoid unanticipated curveballs.
11. Are you building wealth by investing for the long-term? Strive to save 10-15% of your income. Understand what you are willing to risk. Establish the best alternative investments for your money personality.
12. Do you have a retirement plan? You will need approximately 80% of your present income in retirement (assuming your children are financially independent, you have paid off your mortgage, and you are free from work-related expenses). Ask yourself: “How long will I need to work before I can afford to retire? How much do I need to save and not run out of money? Am I saving enough to cover what I will need once retired?” One should fine tune their plan at least one year before retirement. Practice your plan NOW, before retirement.
13. Take advantage of employer FREE money. Many employers have retirement plans that match your contributions.
14. Check your Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) or other investment accounts. How have they been doing? Are you contributing enough monthly? Do you know what type of account(s) you have? Is your investment plan well diversified? Are your funds growing?
15. Maintain the right type of insurance. This might include: health, disability or long-term care, auto/homeowners/rental, and life insurance. Hope for the best, but plan for the unexpected. You certainly need to be protected in the event a life circumstance occurs.
16. Create an estate plan. Meet with an estate planning attorney. A will states your final wishes regarding your assets, beneficiaries and who you want to administer your estate. Financial information needs to be kept up-to-date. You may also want to include establishing a power of attorney for financial and health care decisions in the event you become incapacitated.
17. Plan for taxes. Make sure your long-term income projections include taxes. Maximizing your tax saving possibilities should be consistent with your planning objectives. You may want to talk to a tax accountant or financial planner to ensure your plan is on target.
18. Check your Social Security Administration account at https://www.ssa.gov to create your account and check your benefits.
19. Talk to your children about money. Review finances periodically as a family.
20. Review your plan frequently. Stay on course. Goals, or circumstances in our lives, change – we marry, have kids, divorce, PCS, leave the military, etc. Changes are inevitable, so keeping an eye on your financial health helps keep you in charge. Will you make mistakes? You bet’cha! These are life lessons that help you avoid making the same mistakes.
Your financial plan should be unique and tailored to your financial goals. Each of these items are key elements in helping you manage your money responsibly and plan for the future. You will need to be dedicated, and possibly seek advice, to achieve your financial strategy. Simplify your plan and avoid making it to complex. You can do this!
For those who have personal financial questions, need financial assistance, or would like to schedule an appointment, call the Army Community Service’s Financial Readiness Program at 502-624-5989. Financial specialists are available to assist with individual financial education and planning needs for the Fort Knox military community.