You’ve worked hard. You’ve managed your money. And now, you’re looking down the road, preparing for what’s next. Have I saved enough for retirement? For my kids? For emergencies? If that uncertainty feels a little overwhelming, there are steps you can take to make sure you’ve done enough.
A strategic financial plan can help you protect what you’ve worked for, meet your financial goals, and help you stay on track for the future.
How to Strategically Manage Your Finances
A financial plan that tracks, anticipates, can help guide you on your way. Here is a step-by-step guide to creating a flexible and strategic personal financial plan.
Create a Budget
A simple, detailed budget is the basis for understanding where your money goes and where you’ll want to start saving. Whether you’ve established your own budgeting system, use a personal finance app, or you’re brand new to managing money, this is the first place to start.
By beginning with a budget, you can collect daily information about where your money is going, so you know why it’s going there, and start to map out a strategy.
P.S. Here are five personal finance apps we recommend for managing a budget.
Once you know where your money is going and how much cash you can save, consider what you want. Remove yourself from financial boundaries and really think about what makes you happy, what you want to be doing, and what you want to do in the future.
Keep in mind that these goals don’t have to be achieved in a couple of months. These can be long-term goals that you plan to reach over five or ten years. Be realistic, but stay optimistic about what you can accomplish.
Build in Milestones
Okay, so setting a five-year goal is intimidating. Make sure you set up smaller goals every few months in between.
Reinforce the progress you’re making by setting short-term attainable goals along the way.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Unexpected life events can have major impacts on your financial health. Include a buffer for emergency expenses, like home repairs, medical expenses, and other new costs, when they pop up. Setting aside savings now will provide you with peace of mind, and can help you maintain some stability during life’s unexpected moments.
Monitor Your Credit Profile
Central to your financial health is your credit profile, which includes your credit history, credit score and debt-to-income ratio. Credit profiles become important when you’re trying to take out a loan because lenders will likely review your credit profile before deciding how much money to give you and at what rate. Many credit card companies offer free credit score monitoring, but once a year you can access a copy of your entire credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies:
Review Your Plan
A financial plan is not a permanent regiment you need to stick with. A key part of successfully managing your strategic plan is to revisit it regularly and ensure that it’s still helping you reach your goals.
If you have met some goals, it may be time to adjust or set new ones. As always, hope for the best, but plan for the unexpected. Changes happen. Be sure that your strategic financial plan changes with your circumstances.
Get Professional Help
If you aren’t confident in your ability to create a plan just yet, seek out the help of a financial advisor. They can help you walk through the steps of a financial plan, help you decide what your goals are, and how to achieve them.
A financial advisor can be especially useful in helping you map out an investment strategy because of their knowledge of the stock market and economic trends.
Don’t Go Blindly into Your Financial Future
It can be hard to balance everything–trying to pay off outstanding debt, saving for an emergency and having enough money for day-to-day needs—let alone plan your finances for the future. But do not let discomfort with managing money keep you from creating a financial plan. Set your goals, build in buffers for roadblocks, celebrate progress, and stay on track.
Creating a strategic financial plan provides a clear way forward to your future. You’ll have the security of savings, the peace of mind for whatever life throws at you, and the rewards of your goals when you get there.