Plan for your Financial Future

By Elaine Marze

financial plan is considered a smart thing to have, but too many people put it off, sometimes to their financial detriment. Not everybody is good with financial matters, so it is better to find an experienced financial planner that you trust. “No matter what your financial goal is, you likely won’t reach it without a plan,” advises Blake Rainey, president of S.A.F.E. Planning, Inc. “But a plan is only good if it is executed with discipline. There is no shortage of information available at your fingertips that can cause fear or greed to derail the best-laid plans. You need a financial coach not only to give you an academically sound investment strategy but also to continue to educate you about what you’re doing and why and to keep you from making emotional, irrational decisions that are destructive to your desired goal.”

Depending on your lifestyle, age, and time of planning, your plan may include a retirement plan, a college savings plan, long-term care plans, capital gains, living trusts, 401(k), IRA contribution plans, and several other facets of your individual and family goals. A good financial plan prioritizes these goals and then outlines the steps you need to take to achieve them. Even a well-laid-out plan may need to change over the years because it is not something you do once and forget about. As you age and your way of life changes, so will your budget. You will be identifying more with what you can do to save your assets, medical and life insurances, and an overview of retirement account investments, including social security income estimates and a lifestyle plan.

Necessary documents such as wills, living wills, and power of attorney should be in hard copy form and easy to access. Some advisors are also urging their clients to put all their paperwork on thumb drives which can be attached to your keychain in case of an accident or unexpected illness. People believe, incorrectly, that putting their documents in a safe or safe deposit box is enough, but documents must be available at the time of need. Written documents ensure the plan is final and legal, unlike verbal directives and commitments to family members or friends.

An experienced planner can guide you through the government maze of gifting rules, tax loopholes, look-back periods, pre-nuptial agreements, inheritance laws, probate, property transfers, and other confusing government regulations. Eventually, the financial planning gets into beneficiary and survivor benefit plans, annuities and long-term care, estate and inheritance tax estimates, philanthropic gift giving, and, perhaps, specialized issues such as veteran and surviving spousal benefits.

Though most people aren’t equipped and experienced enough to do effective and extensive financial planning on their own, there are experts available to help you take charge and be proactive regarding your financial future through careful planning. Every case is different; there’s not a one-size-fits-all category, but everybody needs to have a plan. Don’t procrastinate.