Make financial planning work for you

Published 8:56 pm Wednesday, October 17, 2012

By Mark U. McGahee

Peanut Fest is over, Thanksgiving is around the corner, then Christmas, and then….

No matter the time of year, excuses abound for putting off financial planning. Perhaps you think you have put it off long enough that it will not be helpful, because the opportunity to benefit from it has passed by. On the contrary; financial planning is worthwhile at any age.

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Misconceptions about financial planning are plentiful. Therefore many people believe they will not be sufficiently rewarded by doing it. Just a few examples of the misconceptions are: confusing financial planning with investing; believing financial planning is only for wealthy people; thinking financial planning is the same as retirement planning; and thinking that using a financial planner means losing control.

Don’t fall into these and other traps. Realize that you are the focus of financial planning. When you work with a financial planner, the results are as much your responsibility as the planner’s.

Here are some tips to help you make financial planning work for you:

  • Set measurable financial goals. Be specific. Saying you “want to retire comfortably” is too vague. How much money will you need each month during retirement to be “comfortable”?
  • Recognize financial decisions and actions are interrelated. A particular investment decision may end up hurting your estate plan. A decision about your child’s education may affect your retirement plan.
  • Financial planning isn’t static. You must reevaluate your financial situation periodically. Goals may change because of circumstances. You may change jobs, have an addition to the family, move, experience a critical illness, etc. You need to keep your financial plan fresh. Adjust it to reflect the changes that often happen. That’s how you can stay on track with your long term goals.
  • Don’t delay. Start planning as soon as you can. People who begin saving and investing a little bit of money early and often, tend to do better than people who wait until later in life. Discipline yourself to develop good habits by budgeting, saving and investing regularly. Be sure to set aside enough for emergencies — about three to six months worth of expenses — in an account that is safe.
  • Have realistic expectations. Financial planning will not make you independently wealthy overnight — it’s a lifelong process. Events beyond your control occur, such as inflation, interest rate fluctuations, and stock market swings. All of these will affect your financial planning results.
  • Above all, remember that you are in charge. Whether you do it yourself or you use a financial planner, the ultimate decisions are yours. If you do use a planner, be sure you understand the planning process so you will know what the planner should be doing. Share all of your relevant financial information with the planner so the plan will be as thorough as possible. Don’t be shy about asking the planner questions about the recommendations brought to you. Interact with the planner throughout the process.
  • What are you really seeking when you decide to take the plunge into financial planning? Yes, you want to accomplish the goals and objectives you set for yourself; however, perhaps the greatest benefit is simply peace of mind.

Mark U. McGahee is a financial planner and specializes in investment and protection planning. Email him at