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What is Comprehensive Financial Planning?


Financial planning is about building an objective plan for your financial future. You should follow these principles to ensure that every aspect of your financial life is covered, and therefore build a solid foundation to meet your goals.

Your goals will depend on your own personal situation and what you want for the future. For example, you might want to plan for retirement, buy a second home or send your kids to private school. The list is only limited by your imagination.

This is all based on a common sense approach. Anyone can do it, you just need to be methodical and objective.

What about financial advice?

Unfortunately, most financial advisers do not offer comprehensive financial planning. Most of them are glorified sales people. This is proved by the fact that they usually sell products rather than plans. If your financial adviser starts by talking products he is thinking about himself rather than your future!

Of course, there is a place for products, but only at the end of a comprehensive analysis of the reasons why you need that solution. What's more your financial plan might reveal that you do not need further products!

What should be in my plan?

Here are the main areas which need to be covered. There may be other areas, depending on your own circumstances.

Gathering data

You need to think of your plan as a whole because your financial decisions are inter-linked. For example, if you have an expensive mortgage this may impact on your ability to save for the future. You will need to get together data on every aspect of your financial situation.

Setting goals

Without an end in mind, it will be difficult to evaluate your progress. Therefore you should think carefully about what you want your future to look like. These goals should be measurable.

Income and outgoings

This is fundamental to building your plan. If you spend less than you earn, you have a chance to affect your financial future. If you spend more than you earn you will have limited options and could spiral into debt. Understanding tax is a big part of this.

Assets and liabilities

You need to build up assets to underpin your financial future. And more importantly you need to build up the right kinds of assets. The sooner you can be debt free (unless it is the 'right debt'), the sooner you can be in control. For planning purposes we ignore certain types of assets.

Emergency funding

Making sure you can cope with short-term crises is vital. We recommend that you set aside 3-6 months worth of outgoings.

Protecting what you have got

You should think about what happens if things go wrong. This includes all types of insurance to ensure your lifestyle is defended from catastrophes. You should also consider making wills and powers of attorney etc.

Paying off debt

Generally, any debt is a barrier to your future prosperity. The sooner you become debt free, the sooner you have control over your future. Remember that your bank manager includes your mortgage as one of his assets!

Saving for the future and investing wisely

You need to work out how much will be needed to fund your future goals, how much risk this requires, and the effect of external forces such as inflation, charges and future legislation.

Tax

While this should not drive your plan, it is certainly an important part of the equation. Understanding how tax affects your life should run throughout your plan.

Monitoring your progress

Financial planning should be much like servicing your car. You would not spend £20,000 on a new car and then never take it to the garage for a service. Likewise, you should regularly review your plan to ensure your remain on target to meet your goals.

Of course, your circumstances will also change over time, so your ultimate goals may also need a tweak from time to time.

Conclusion As you can see, a proper financial plan should be extremely detailed, and will take some work. However, the rewards will really benefit you as you will be back in control of your life.

Want some help?

We work closely with our clients to develop and maintain their financial plans. If you would like some help in preparing your plan, please contact us.

Dan Woodruff is a Certified Financial Planner and Independent Financial Adviser based in Colchester, Essex, UK. He regularly writes articles on financial planning and investments aimed at UK business owners and investors. Go to http://www.woodruff-fp.co.uk to find more content, or sign up for his free newsletter or financial planning blog.

Woodruff Financial Planning is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.

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