We all dream of a financially secure future, don’t we? The thought of being able to afford our dream home, educate our children at the best schools and colleges, and retire comfortably is undoubtedly enticing. However, turning these dreams into reality requires more than wishful thinking, it requires a well laid out financial plan. In this blog, let us understand what Financial Planning is, how you can start doing your long term financial planning, and why it’s so important to do so. Let’s go!
Understanding Long Term Financial Planning
The dream of being financially healthy is not just limited to individuals but also extends to businesses and governments. Financial planning is how these dreams are realised.
Financial planning is a complex strategy that includes short-term and long-term goals. It is a customised plan because every financial situation is different. Other than financial goals it takes into account history, current financial standing, time horizons, risk appetite, and preferences.
Short-term financial planning focuses on addressing immediate financial needs and objectives, such as saving for a vacation or an emergency fund. On the other hand, long term financial planning focuses on securing one’s financial future, allowing them to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in the years to come. This process includes setting specific long term financial goals and creating a blueprint to achieve them while adapting to changing circumstances. In this blog, we will focus on long term financial planning.
Long Term Financial Planning Process
Here’s a general guide to the long-term financial planning process:
Building a Solid Foundation
A house built on a weak foundation will crumble and fall. Similarly, a long term financial plan has to be built on a solid foundation. This means having a clear understanding of your current financial situation and setting realistic financial goals. When the foundation of your financial plan is strong, it can withstand economic uncertainties and market fluctuations, and keep you secure.
A. Assessing Your Current Financial Situation
The first thing you need to do is honestly assess your current financial standing. Begin by taking stock of all sources of your income, such as salary, freelance, part-time, or rental income. Examine your expenses and list down your assets. An asset is anything with financial value such as your savings, properties, cars, jewellery, and investments. Now note down your liabilities like credit card loans or education loans. With this information you will be able to calculate your net worth – just subtract your total liabilities from your total assets. Knowing your net worth is important because it tells you about your overall financial health. By calculating your net worth regularly, you will gain insights into your financial progress over time.
B. Setting Financial Goals
The other element of laying a solid foundation for your long term financial plan is the establishment of clear and attainable financial goals. If you don’t know where you are going, you will just roam around without direction. Everyone has a goal in mind, but it’s important to clearly define it. Defining your goals gives direction to your financial decisions.
Your goal could be to save money to buy a house, but it doesn’t provide clarity and lacks specificity. Instead transform that goal by saying, “My goal is to save money to buy a house in 5 years by making a downpayment of 20%.” By doing this you are making things more clear. 20% of down payment within a 5-year timeframe will tell you exactly how much you need to save, and enable you to plan accordingly. So whether your goal is buying a house, funding your child’s education, or building a retirement nest egg, it’s important to define it properly.
Another important aspect of goal setting is making sure it is attainable. If you set unrealistic goals, you will likely not achieve them, get frustrated, and ultimately, abandon the financial plan altogether. Realistic goals allow you to stay motivated. As you see your steady progress you will feel accomplished, and that will encourage you more.
An honest assessment of your finances and goal setting will serve as the foundation upon which you can build your long term financial plan.
Creating a Long-Term Financial Plan
Now that you have laid a solid foundation, it’s time to make your long term financial plan. This process can be broken down into three parts – making a budget, long term investing, and managing debt. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
A. Budgeting for the Future
Budgeting is one of the most basic, yet crucial aspects of financial planning. Your budget is what allows you to save, which in turn helps you achieve your goals. Start by classifying your expenses into three categories – Your ‘needs’ or essential expenses, your ‘wants’ or non-essential expenses, and savings. Essential expenses include your rent, mortgage, groceries and the like. It’s stuff you can’t do without. When you receive your income, this category is where it will be spent first.
The second category of non-essential expenses includes stuff like streaming subscriptions, dining out, and hobbies. This category will help you identify expenses that you can cut and hence save that money. It’s important to be realistic when outlining your budget. Sometimes people make too many cuts, lose motivation and no longer stick to the budget. This happens because too many cutbacks mean your lifestyle will suffer.
Since you’re planning for the long term, you have to make sure your budget is sustainable. The usual guideline states that 50% of your income should go into essential expenses, 30% into non-essential, and 20% of income should be saved. Tweak this according to your financial goals. If you have a debt or maybe you want to build an emergency fund, you might want to increase the allocation of savings. This is absolutely fine. A budget is not set in stone. In fact, it’s important to review and update it regularly as conditions change.
Also Read: What is Budgeting in Financial Management?
B. Investing for the Long Term
If you want to grow your wealth over time you have to invest your savings. Money that sits idly in your bank account will lose its purchasing power due to rising inflation. So investing doesn’t just create more wealth but also preserves the value of the money you have. Identify different long term investment options that align with your risk tolerance, time horizon, and financial goals.
For example, if you want to invest to build a retirement fund, you can look into options such as the Public Provident Fund or National Pension Scheme. Explore such options thoroughly and you will find additional benefits – Like investing in PPF or NPS will also give you tax benefits under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act.
Usually, those who invest for the long term look into equity-linked assets. Though they are riskier, such options can provide very high returns. Even if there are setbacks, you will have a lot of time to bounce back. Long term investing is all about patience so try to not panic due to market fluctuations. Assess every situation with a calm head, and don’t hesitate to seek help from an investment planner if you are confused.
With long term investing, you get to enjoy the power of compounding. The earlier you start, the better because your returns will generate additional earnings on both the principal amount and the accumulated interest which will lead to fast growth over time. Also remember to have proper risk management strategies in place, such as diversifying your portfolio to lessen potential losses and improve the overall stability of your long-term investment approach.
C. Managing Debt Wisely
Debt management is another important part of financial planning. If you have debt, get started on making repayment strategies as soon as you can. The sooner you free yourself of this burden, the sooner you can redirect those funds toward savings and investments. The repayment plan you develop should be structured. Prioritise high-interest debts because the interest it accumulates can weigh you down massively. In the long run, you will also save more money.
Consider consolidating loans if it helps streamline the process. Look to make cuts in your budget so you can pay off debt quicker. Avoid accumulating unnecessary debt – it’s easier than ever now to get quick loans, and impulsively shop with your credit card, but be disciplined. Improve your credit score by making payments on time, not having too many active debts, and maintaining a low credit utilisation ratio. With a good credit score, you can get low-interest rates, easier loan approval, higher credit limits, and other credit card benefits.
Other than these three aspects, your long term financial plan should include a tax strategy and legacy & inheritance planning. With tax planning, you will be able to minimise your tax liabilities and keep more of your hard-earned money. Legacy and inheritance planning will help you manage and distribute your assets to your loved ones in a way that aligns with your intentions. Insurance is another component that can safeguard you and your family from the unexpected. It is also important to remember that your job doesn’t stop after creating your financial plan. It is essential to revisit it regularly, usually once a year to see your progress and make changes according to internal and external circumstances.
Seeking Professional Guidance
While you can manage and make your financial plan yourself, you should consider seeking professional guidance. A certified financial planner can provide some valuable insights and expertise into your personal finances. He can also tailor your financial plan to your unique circumstances, considering your goals, risk tolerance and time constraints. An investment planner can help you identify optimal investment opportunities, create a diversified portfolio, and align your strategies with changing market conditions. He can also inform you about the tax implications of your investments, monitor your financial plan and make adjustments as needed.
The Benefits of Long-Term Financial Planning
Here are some of the many benefits of long term financial planning –
- It helps you understand your finances better. This better understanding will empower you to make more informed decisions.
- It helps you stay prepared for unexpected expenses as it ensures you build an emergency fund.
- With investing you can accumulate wealth over time slowly.
- It helps you realise your financial dreams.
- It compels you to take action on aspects that need attention such as debt or lack of insurance.
- It helps you stay disciplined and makes sure you stay on your laid-out path.
- It helps you keep track of and improve your net worth and credit score.
- When you know you have a well-thought-out financial plan in place, it brings peace of mind and reduces financial stress.
For financial success, long term financial planning is a necessity. It will enable you to not only achieve your financial dreams, but also help you understand your financial situation, define realistic goals and budget, create more wealth, reduce debt, manage risk, and ensure financial stability. Even though you can manage your finances on your own, consulting with a financial advisor is recommended because the many benefits they offer are hard to ignore. A professional can make sure your financial plan is comprehensive and covers every essential component while giving you informed insights and guiding you to a financially secure future.