Essential Components to a Financial Plan
So what are the key components of a holistic financial plan? Here is an overview of the types of personal and financial information that is typically collected and assessed during the planning process:
Goals & Objectives
Goals and objectives should be listed by priority and should be as specific as possible. They should be specific, measurable, reasonable, and capable of planning.
Income Tax Planning
Tax returns should be examined to determine if you are maximizing tax saving possibilities consistent with the planning objectives.
A balance sheet or “Statement of Financial Position” should be created, showing your net worth by listing all assets and liabilities. This should be periodically updated to track progress towards overall goals and to identify changes in your financial situation that need attention.
Issues & Problems
Issues/problems consist of observations regarding the strengths and weaknesses of your current situation as well as risks you face.
Risk Management and Insurance
A sudden unexpected event can derail even the most detailed plan unless you have anticipated and planned for catastrophic events. Insurance products are useful in managing these risks. You should evaluate your life, disability, liability/umbrella, and long-term care insurance.
Retirement, Education, and Special Needs
Consideration must be given to retirement, education, or any other special needs (e.g., physically or mentally incapacitated dependents or divorce settlements). Financial projections should be prepared for these needs, along with funding strategies.
Cash Flow Statement
Preparation of a cash flow statement will show income from all sources, as well as expenses that occur on a regular or recurring basis. This should be periodically updated to track progress towards overall goals and to identify changes in your financial situation that need attention.
An analysis of your investments should be completed to determine if the portfolio’s earnings, growth, and diversification are consistent you’re your objectives and risk tolerance.
Your financial plan should include a review of your lifetime gifts and final transfer of assets to reduce or eliminate your gifts and estate tax exposure.
Assumptions include inflation rates, rate of return on investments, tax bracket, years of work remaining, and life expectancy. These should be reviewed periodically against your actual financial plan and adjustments should be made accordingly.
All final (and proposed) recommendations should be in writing, stating the assumptions upon which they are based, projected benefits, and potential problems.
The plan implementation section should delineate the individuals responsible for implementing each identified task, whether it be you, your financial planner, accountant, attorney, or some other expert.
Know the Answers to the Following Questions:
- What rate of return risk do I need to take in order to enjoy the same standard of living in retirement that I enjoy today?
- How long will I need to work before I can afford to retire?
- How much can I afford to spend and not run out of money?
- Am I saving enough to reach my retirement income goals?
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