The sheer amount of information about investing is enough to overwhelm anyone. There are books, magazines, blogs, YouTube videos and podcasts galore advising people on how to best invest their money.
In addition, there are a fair number of investing legends who have shared their wisdom freely — Jack Bogle had a cult-like following when he was alive, and people look forward to hearing Warren Buffett speak every May at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting.
With a quick internet search, you’ll have no problem finding the basic principles and benefits of investing. Investing gives you the opportunity for financial gain but also the risk of losses. You can buy stocks, bonds, mutual funds or even invest in property — all with the goal that the value of the asset will increase and you will make money over the long run. Investing usually has a higher potential for growth over the long term than keeping your money in a risk-free savings account or cash.
With all of this in mind, most people ask: How specifically should I invest my money right now, considering my situation and future goals?
Your internet search may reveal model portfolios for the aggressive, moderate and conservative investor, but you might not be sure what category you fall into. You might also wonder if the allocation should vary according to your financial goals.
At that point, you begin to realize that before you can develop a strong investment plan, you first need a financial plan.
Financial Planning for All of Your Life Stages
I have been a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional for more than 20 years, and the most important thing I do is build financial plans, which is different from investing. While investing is certainly part of financial planning, there is so much more you need to consider to develop a holistic and secure financial plan.
A financial plan provides a roadmap for the future and can be developed regardless of your life stage. It starts with analyzing your strengths and vulnerabilities; then, setting your financial goals accordingly. The process requires that you prioritize your goals and develop strategies and tactics to reach them. A financial plan also balances your shorter-term goals with that of retirement security.
CFP Board refers to it as the “Confident Forever Plan” and I can tell you that it’s not just a marketing slogan. My real value, and the value of my fellow CFP® professionals, shines through when we help you set your goals, provide a roadmap to reach them, and serve as your guide to the special tools and strategies that can help you get there.
More specifically, we help clients through all their life stages:
It’s never too early to get on the path to reach your financial goals. As you start “adulting,” a CFP® professional can equip you with the tools to start out on the right foot. Steps you can take include:
- Developing financial independence from your parents
- Creating a budget and an emergency fund
- Navigating student loan payments
- Starting to save for retirement
- Maximizing employer benefits
- Navigating financial apps and automated services
Don’t tackle life’s big decisions alone. Start building a relationship with a CFP® professional who can help you create a roadmap to achieve your financial goals. This may entail:
- Pursuing your first mortgage and house
- Preparing financially for children
- Financing home improvement projects
- Updating your beneficiary designations
- Reviewing your insurance coverage — are your life, disability and personal liability policies adequate?
Is long-term financial planning on your mind? Seek advice from a CFP® professional to help you prioritize your financial planning to-do list, which may include:
- Teaching children about money
- Saving for your children’s college without jeopardizing your retirement
- Navigating divorce
- Estate planning: Getting wills, health care proxies and power of attorney documents in order
- Updating insurance policies, especially if your teenager is driving
- Planning for your own business
- Saving for a second or vacation home
You’ve maxed out your 401(k) and maybe even paid off your mortgage, so you’re ready to retire ... right? Consult a CFP® professional to see if you’re on track to make the most of your golden years. Topics of discussion may include:
- Supporting adult children
- Understanding Medicare and Social Security
- Positioning your retirement portfolio to minimize taxes
- Building a portfolio you feel comfortable with in good (and not-so-good) times
- Saving medical expense receipts for later HSA tax-free withdrawals
- Reviewing your portfolio to minimize risk as you approach your retirement date
It’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. This means more free time with friends, family and hobbies. But don’t cancel plans to meet with your CFP® professional. See if your financial plan is running smoothly by:
- Reducing taxes during retirement
- Avoiding lifetime payment penalties when signing up for Medicare
- Claiming Social Security at the right time
As you can see, investment planning is just one of the many services that financial planners provide their clients as a part of holistic financial planning. Regardless of your life stage, a CFP® professional is trained to work with you on everything from providing investment advice to saving for retirement, so they can help you create a holistic financial plan that is designed to support your goals as they evolve over the years.
Visit https://www.letsmakeaplan.org/financial-topics to learn more about all the types of guidance CFP® professionals can provide you throughout all your stages in life.