Over the years, you’ve likely set different financial goals for yourself. Whether you want to take one big vacation a year or retire early, a key part of reaching your long-term goals is creating a financial plan.
As time goes by, different life events make it necessary to revisit your goals. Some events (like an unexpected promotion) make those goals easier to reach, while others (like losing your job) might delay your plans.
Once in a while, check in with yourself, and with your family, to create a financial plan that allows you to realize the dreams that are most important to you now.
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Life Events That Can Change Your Financial Plan
It’s a good habit to revisit your financial plan on an annual basis. Take a look at it more frequently than when one of these life events happens:
1. Job Changes
Accepting a new job or getting a promotion usually means a salary bump. Think about how you apply that new salary to your goals — without letting lifestyle eat into your raise. For example, if you’re interested in saving more money, you could send the additional money you’re bringing in straight to a savings account, as if you’d never seen it, and it could help your savings account grow faster.
In addition, maximizing your new company benefits can be one of the best ways to reduce your tax bill and take advantage of all the benefits your company provides.
2. Moving to a New City
A job change might lead to a relocation, possibly to a city with a very different cost of living than you’re used to. How would this affect your budget for regular expenses (housing, transportation, food), as well as your long-term goals?
3. Buying a Home
Unlike renting, buying a home requires a significant outpouring of cash at the beginning. It can take years to save up the amount you would need depending on whether you plan to put a deposit down, so a financial plan is essential.
As you begin to save for a home, create a plan that also accounts for all the ongoing costs of home ownership — maintenance, property taxes and more. This can affect how much house you can actually afford. For such a big purchase, you never want to just wing it.
4. Getting Married
When you’re talking marriage with your significant other, talk about your finances as well. To what extent do you want to combine your money? Are either of you in debt? What are your spending and saving styles? Communicate openly about money as you talk about your future together.
5. Getting Divorced
Ending a marriage can be financially devastating. It’s essential to work with a lawyer and financial planner to learn how to best protect your assets while separating them from those of your former spouse.
6. Having Children
Raising a kid costs nearly a quarter of a million dollars — and that doesn’t include college tuition. So if you’re considering having a baby, it’s a good time to plan for short-term costs like daycare and long-term costs like college.
7. Going Back to School or Sending Your Child to School
Are you eligible for financial aid? Will you need to take out student loans? Setting up a 529 Plan for college can help offset some of these costs, but there also are scholarships, grants and tax credits you should be aware of.
Weigh your education costs carefully.
8. Retiring From Work
You’ve spent decades earning and saving money. The switch to retirement, where you slowly spend what you’ve earned, can be a huge adjustment. How much do you have saved? How much money will you need to withdraw every year? What are the tax implications of withdrawing from different accounts? Do you plan to leave any money to heirs? When will you take Social Security?
9. Facing a Serious Illness
Sadly, medical bills can pose a financial challenge, especially if an illness prevents you from working for a long time. Having adequate health insurance coverage, disability insurance and emergency savings can give you peace of mind during a difficult time. It’s hard to think about these things, but they’re an important part of your financial plan.
10. Coming Into a Large Sum of Money
A large inheritance or settlement award can be life-changing. Taking a few months to decide how best to use this money can prevent you from misusing it toward your goals.
The Different Parts of Your Financial Plan
A financial plan doesn’t have to be complicated. You’ll want to address these areas:
- Your goals
- Investing and retirement accounts
Simply being aware of all of these things will help you see gaps you need to fill in.
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When to Consult a Professional
Financial advisors aren’t just for the wealthy. Everyone can benefit from professional guidance at some point in their lives. A financial advisor can take a wide view of all your assets and debts, and help you create an actionable plan to achieve your dreams.
You can search for a fee-only financial advisor through the National Association of Professional Financial Advisors (NAPFA).
Many people choose to handle their money themselves and, most of the time, that’s absolutely possible. But when you’re going through a big life change, it could be a difficult or strenuous time. A financial advisor can help you adjust your financial plan accordingly and work through your financial plan in a more objective way.