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Having a financial plan is essential, but many avoid it

An Allianz study in 2017 found that 50 percent of divorced women surveyed thought financial planning was an “impossible task.” I don’t believe that gender determines financial decision-making ability, but experience does.

How many people can say that they are experienced in creating a financial plan? Only those who actually jumped in and gave it a try.

According to a recently released survey (Modern Wealth Index) commissioned by Schwab, 1 out of 5 people said that having a financial plan simply never occurred to them. Another 20 percent said they wouldn’t know how to go about getting a plan, and 45 percent said they don’t have enough money to need a plan.

Well, let’s change that right here and now. First, you’re not getting any younger. Second, without a plan, you’re not getting any wiser. People who plan have better financial results.

According to the Schwab study, 82 percent of planners consider risk tolerance when investing versus 55 percent of nonplanners. Seventy-eight percent of planners are aware of fees and investment costs versus 44 percent of nonplanners. Fifty-four percent of planners regularly rebalance their portfolios versus 17 percent of nonplanners.

Forty-two percent of planners feel “very confident” about reaching financial goals versus 26 percent of nonplanners. Forty-seven percent of planners measure progress against goals instead of performance versus 41 percent of nonplanners. Twenty-two percent of planners have a diversified portfolio versus 8 percent of nonplanners.

Just how hard is it to start planning? The next exercise is all about getting to know yourself better so you can direct decisions about how you want to live.

Start with a situation audit of (1) cash flows: money coming into the household; money being paid out; (2) assets (and if you are married, ownership of those assets); and (3) liabilities.

Then, think ahead to the future. What do you want it to look like? Consider what it takes to get there.

If you’re thinking this is way too difficult to do on your own, I’d encourage you to start with the “big picture.” Getting into details too early can stop you from even trying (unless you are the type of person who has a budget and sticks to it).

You do not have to be an expert. “All questions in personal finance boil down to your living standard,” said Laurence Kotlikoff, professor of economics at Boston University, and president of Maxifiplanner.com, a comprehensive lifetime financial planning tool.

But plan you must.

“Planning is critical to achieving any goal. It’s like establishing an exercise regimen to get in shape — we need to take the same approach to keep our finances in good health and on track,” said Terri Kallsen, executive vice president and head of Schwab Investor Services.

Indeed.


Julie Jason is a personal money manager at Jackson, Grant of Stamford, Conn., and an awardwinning author. Contact her at readers@juliejason.com.


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