The 7 Steps Of Do-it-yourself Financial Planning

You are in control

You are already your own financial planner. Regardless of the extent of help you receive from professionals, you ultimately are the decision maker and you are responsible for your own finances. Although the financial world has become increasingly complex, it is becoming easier today to do a lot of your own planning. The variety of resources has expanded such as software for money management and planning; online tools for banking, financial planning and investing, and resources, and books and blogs that are easy to understand. These resources may be good news for you if the cost of professional fee only financial planners is out-of-reach to you. Besides the cost of fees, others may avoid planners because they have heard stories of advisors trying to sell a product that didn’t fit their situation. Cost savings and avoiding product pitches are excellent benefits of being your own planner.

Everyone should take a more active role in their financial affairs. Not only does it help with educated decision making and fraud avoidance it also helps you better communicate with your other professional advisors such as your accountant and attorney. You will also find yourself spotting opportunities when they cross your path.

Becoming a better manager of your family’s finances will also help you ‘dig out’ if you are struggling financially. When you consider the low savings rates and the high household debt, many more people find themselves in this category today.

The following are 7 steps to do-it-yourself financial planning:

Step 1: Commit

The first step to financial planning always begins with commitment. Whether you are having financial difficulty, or have just avoided setting goals and mapping out a plan – commitment is the first step. Commitment provides the discipline and focus needed to help sustain you on the path towards your goals.

Step 2: Set Goals

Without specific goals and a plan to achieve them financial success stays a foggy dream. Therefore the second step is to list the dreams that will motivate you. Write down all of the goals you want to achieve in the short and long term. This will serve as the driver, or the fire in the engine giving you the motivation to move forward. Everyone has dreams, but without constant watering and attention dreams will go dormant. Leave your past mistakes and inaction behind you, light a new fire and chart a course forward. You have an enormous amount of potential and talent, and if you have made mistakes you now have more experience and wisdom. Dare to imagine what you could achieve because your best years are ahead of you.

Step 3: Assemble and Organize Information

Get your stuff together. Planning is easier if you assemble everything in one central location. Make an organized filing system either in a cabinet, accordion file, a box, any way that works for you. Now locate and file all of your tax returns, receipts, insurance policies, contracts, wills, mortgages, deeds, titles, pay stubs, employee benefit statements, banking (loan, savings and checking), bills, investment and retirement plan statements and any other important papers.

Step 4: Manage Cash Flow

Your household is a business. You need to know how much you are earning and spending each month. Balance your checkbook and establish a budget. There are dozens of books and software to help with this, and your bank’s website may provide this as well. This will help you know when and where you are overspending.

Step 5: Self Educate

Establish a sound foundational knowledge base about financial matters. Start with books about budgeting and money savings tips, debt, basic insurance and investing. Be sure to include reading about mutual funds and financial planning. Avoid get-rich-quick, real estate, gold or innovative ‘secrets’ books. Stick to the fundamentals. I find the “For Dummies, ‘For Idiots’ and ‘D-Mystified’ book series to be very helpful for many people. Lastly, stay informed about current financial topics by reading financial magazines, newspapers, the business section of papers, and blogs.

Step 6: Create a Written Plan

A written plan serves as a road map towards your financial destination. It helps you understand where you are presently and the steps that you need to take to move forward. A financial plan is a process. Your life will change, therefore you should revisit your financial plan at least once a year to make any updates or to include items in your checklist for completion. You should revisit your financial plan at least once a year to make any updates or to include items in your checklist for completion. If you write your own financial plan, you will have to obtain financial planning software. Your other options are to pay to have a written financial plan completed by a fee financial planner or by an institution or professional that provides products. Be sure to find out about how the planner is compensated and what your fees will be.

Step 7: Engage Professionals

Most people can’t entirely do all of their financial planning by themselves. Assemble a team of trusted professional advisors that you can rely on to help you implement different aspects of your plan, answer your questions and be on the lookout for you. The professionals that can be the most advantageous are a proactive tax accountant and financial advisor with extensive planning, investment and insurance knowledge, an attorney qualified in estate planning, and a banker that can help with credit ratings and debt management. Before committing to anyone, get referrals for trusted professionals from people whose opinion you respect and don’t be afraid to ask challenging questions.

Get Control Of Your Personal Finance With A Budget

It is fairly common knowledge that money matters can be simplified and controlled with a budget. One of the keys to personal finance management is creating and using a household budget. It is not a really hard task, but one that many people avoid. The reason is that it can often be hard to avoid overspending and having a budget really puts spending problems out there.

A budget is basically a list of expenses and income. It should include all expenses, even the seemingly little expenses like a morning coffee purchase. The budget can be made out weekly or monthly, whatever way is best for the household. For someone who gets paid once a week, a weekly budget may be best. For someone who gets paid once a month, a monthly budget would work nicely. Although, it is really a matter of personal choice as to how the budget is made out.

The income section of a budget is usually fairly simple. Most people can easily track their income. Some people choose to list their income after taxes, while others list the income before taxes and include taxes as a expense. That is strictly a matter of choice.

The expenses section is where most people have trouble. It can be hard to see our spending habits in black and white. It is really important, though, to be honest and list everything. You may find it is helpful to keep a spending log for a week. Your spending log is where you will write down every purchase you make. This can be a good way of tracking all the little expenses you incur throughout a week.

Your expenses section of your budget should also include utilities and housing expenses. If you have a car payment, include here as well. You need to include money spent on gasoline, bathroom items, food and any other thing you spend money on. You do not have to include large, one time purchases, though, as they are not a routine part of your expenses.

Once you have your income and expenses listed you need to add each up. The total of your expenses should not exceed the total of your income. If it does then you need to cut back on your expenses. You may have to stop some spending or try to find creative ways of reducing your spending.

The whole idea of a budget is to ensure that you are not spending more then you are earning. Your budget is a blueprint for how you should be spending your money. Once you have your budget made out and it is balanced you need to stick to it. Only spend as much as you have allotted in your expenses and you should find your personal finance situation becomes much easier to deal with.

Creating A Personal Finance Spreadsheet

One of the biggest challenges we face as adults is balancing a budget. Creating a personal finance spreadsheet can be one of

the most valuable steps you can take to tackling this challenge head on. Even if you start with a simple format and a few details you can be well on your way to financial organization which can lead to financial security in the long run.

There are different methods for creating a personal finance spreadsheet and the decision on which to choose depends greatly

on your personality in general. Many people like to keep record in a computer program like Excel. This is a wonderful way to

stay organized while making a sound personal financial spreadsheet that is professional grade quality.

The Excel program is great because it allows you to work from a clean template. You have control of the input and you can

cater your personal financial spreadsheet to your needs. Many of us have no idea how to use this program but it really takes

just a few minutes to master and the results are great.

You can also use a program like Quicken to create a personal finance spreadsheet. This kind of program comes highly

recommended for any individual who is serious about keeping track of all of his incoming and outgoing funds. The personal

finance spreadsheet that you can produce from a program like Quicken will put your accountant to shame.

Many of us love the idea of keeping strict records of our spending habits and we really like the idea of a sound budget.

However, we don’t like to work on the computer any more than we have to. If you spend all day at work at the monitor the last

thing you want to do is go home and work on a personal finance spreadsheet on your personal computer.

There are those of us who are just not likely to keep things up to date when using this kind of personal finance spreadsheet. These individuals may embrace more traditional, hands on approach to keeping a budget record up to date. There are many items available at office supply stores to meet the traditional needs as well.

One thing to remember when it comes to your personal finance spreadsheet; if you are in a partnership or a marriage it is

crucial to keep the lines of communication open. No personal finance spreadsheet will help you become clairvoyant. Good