There are fundamental steps you can take to get on track with your financial plan.
Planning for your financial future is a critical endeavor, yet one that many overlook or fail to nurture. Some may feel that financial planning is only for the rich; others may feel that they’ve already done it — for instance, by investing in the stock market, they feel that the job is complete. Still, others do not understand financial planning and avoid it, fearing that it is an insurmountable task. This is the perfect time to begin focusing on your financial future, which begins by developing (or refining) your financial plan. Below are key steps you can take:
1. Start young: Invest and save early and often, as a small recurring investment over a long period of time has the potential to produce greater returns than investing a larger amount over a shorter period of time. Additionally, getting an early start allows you time to recover from errors or market downturns. For instance, If you invest $75 a month beginning at age 25 and continue until you are 65, your earnings will be greater than the 35-year-old who invested $100 a month until reaching 65 (This is a hypothetical example and is not representative of any specific situation. Your results will vary. The hypothetical example assumes an equal rate of return and does not reflect the deduction of fees and charges inherent to investing).
2. Plan for an emergency: Expect unexpected expenses, such as those for a medical emergency, major car repair, and an appliance replacement, establishing an emergency fund that can pay for these costs. Additionally, you’ll want to keep three to six months of living expenses in the fund, in case you lose your job. Without such a backup source of funding, you may have to incur credit card debt.
3. Invest for Retirement: Saving for your retirement is a personal decision that will help shape your lifestyle during your Golden Years. It’s never too early (or late) to begin investing in your future. Consider an individual retirement account (IRA) or a 401(k), which offer tax deductions and tax-deferred growth opportunities. A common guideline is to put at least 5% of your income into a retirement account.
4. Diversify Risk: Whatever your investment plan, consider diversifying your portfolio and including multiple asset types. This can help balance your risk, in the event of market swings. Additionally, look for investments that carry low administrative fees, which has the potential to save you thousands of dollars over 20 or 30 years.
5. Review Your Plan: Establishing a financial plan is not a one-and-done proposition. Review your plan regularly (at least annually), revising it as necessary to align with your financial circumstances and goals.
6. Seek Help: Planning for your financial future includes myriad considerations; a financial professional can be helpful in getting your plan on the right course. Their training allows them to take a comprehensive assessment of your financial needs and goals and designing a strategy that optimizes your tax consequences. Additionally, they can help you avoid mistakes that arise from inexperience or emotional decisions.
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