Financial Planning Boot Camp

When you think of Boot Camp you would think of a short, intensive, or rigorous course of training with strict discipline. Well consider this blog post, your “Boot Camp” towards financial success. We are going to run through the financial planning questions you need to answer in order to become more financially secure, or financially “fit” in a short amount of time.

Financial Planning Boot Camp

Phase I: Goals

This first challenge of camp is to define your financial goals.

Answer these questions:

  1. By what age do you want to be financial independent?– Where working is optional not required
  2. What does retirement look like to you?
  3. When do you want to buy a house and how much do you need for the down payment?
  4. Do you have kids? If so do you want to help pay for their college education?
  5. How much money in the bank gives you piece of mind?
  6. If you’re close to retirement, how much money do you need per month to maintain the same lifestyle?

If you have answered all of these questions you may move on to Phase I.

Don’t want to read anymore? Get our 1 page financial plan here!

Phase II: Organization

The second challenge of camp is to organize your current situation. This may require you to do some research and might take a few hours/days. Do not move on to phase III until this is completed.

Write down the following information.

  • Incomes — from all sources
  • salary, bonus, self employment
  • Tax bracket — look at previous year tax return
  • List all monthly expenses
  • Example-Mortgage/rent, child care, transportation groceries clothing, personal care, cell phone, medical/dental/RX, education, entertainment, vacations, charity, utilities, activities, insurances and everything else you spend money on, on a regular basis
  • List all Non-retirement assets — balances and interest rates (if earning)
  • Include all real estate, investments, checking and savings accounts (wine, art, jewelry -if bought to sell in the future)
  • List all Retirement accounts
  • 401k, Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, Pension plans, SEP, Simple, etc.
  • Also list how much you are contribution each month already
  • Also, list how much the company is contributing too.
  • Go on ssa.gov and find your estimated Social Security Benefit Amount — record it.
  • List all debts — balances, interest rates, minimum payment amount
  • mortgage, credit cards, student loans, etc
  • List all insurances you have- type, coverage details
  • health, life, disability, long-term care, umbrella
  • Estate planning docs– done and still accurate?
  • pull out your Will, Living Will, Health care Proxy and Power of Attorney

The purpose of financial planning is to help you grow assets and protect them for your future. In phase I you defined your goals and in phase II you organized your current situation. Phase III is the grunt work. It separates the children from the adults.

To be honest, most people do not graduate from boot camp and hire a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER like me. Phase III is the reason why.

Phase III The Heavy Lifting

This is the phase where you have to figure out, based on what you are currently doing, if you are on target to accomplish the goals listed in phase I. I have searched the web to find a free resource for you.

www.financialculators.com has many calculators that you can use to plug in your numbers to see where you stand. This site does not produce the most comprehensive reports but they are more than enough to get you through Phase III.

Find the appropriate calculator based on your goals.

Example:

How much do I need for retirement? http://www.calcxml.com/calculators/retirement-calculator

How much do I need to save to send my kids to college http://www.calcxml.com/calculators/saving-for-college

How much do I need to save to have enough money for a down payment http://www.calcxml.com/calculators/savings-goal-calculator-how-much

(websites and reports not endorsed by IFS Securities)

Run all your numbers and record them the results!

Phase IV Implementation

You know your goals, you know your current situation, you know shortfalls or surpluses, Phase IV is the implementation phase of boot camp.

Based on what you need to accomplish your goals it’s time to put your money to work.

  • Figure out how much extra money you have at the end of the month to start saving toward your future.
  • every 6 months find a way to increase this by 1% of your salary, so by the end of year 5, you are saving at least 10% of your income

Where do you put the money?

  • Short term goals- those dollars need to be in a high yield savings account
  • this money needs to be fully liquid so you can get to it in case of an emergency
  • Mid-term goals-those dollars need to be in an investment account that is built with the appropriate risk tolerance for you
  • this money should also be fully liquid, but not the first account you tap
  • Long term goals — need to be invested as aggressively as you can handle.

Some specialty accounts you need to investigate

  • Does your company offer a 401k at work
  • You should put the most money in here to get the most free money from your employer (company match)
  • Roth IRA
  • Talk to your accountant to determine if you should open a Roth IRA, money is deposited after taxes and grows TAX FREE
  • 529 plan
  • if you need to save for college, this is the most tax advantaged location
  • Term life insurance
  • if something were to happen to you, how would your spouse/kids survive?
  • if they won’t be ok, use life insurance to pay off any debt and to leave an income behind.

During this camp you may not be able to do everything all at once. That is ok!

But do not wait till one goal is 100% satisfied before starting on the next. Instead start each one with smaller dollars.

The best plan is to have money automatically transferred every month to your savings and investment accounts. This way you can set it and forget it.

Phase V Financial Planning is For Ever

This is the last and final phase of boot camp. The first thing you need to do here is recap and review phases I-IV. You should have a great handle on all of your finances, goals and what’s needed to accomplish them! But, because there is a good chance you were not able to implement everything all at once in Phase IV, Phase V is the on-going maintenance of your financial situation (you didn’t think I was going to let you off easily, did you?) Yearly, you should come back to this camp and re-asses your situation to stay on track.

You should also work toward implementing everything from phase IV. If you can’t do it sooner, during your annual review, add more savings vehicles and automatic deductions.

Example: This year start with maximizing your 401k, and next year add the college savings and investment accounts with small dollars. The following year increase the amount going in to each account.

Wrap up.

This boot camp was intense. Maybe you actually would have preferred to scale walls and crawl through mud instead of reviewing your finances!

You might have done something here for the first time.

Congrats, you survived and I promise you are in a much better financial place because of it.

Please feel free to share this post with anyone you feel needs a swift kick in the rear to get their finances in order!

Now drop and give me $20!

As always, you can consult with me to discuss your financial situation.

Look for future posts on the best ways to save for retirement and check out my recent post on budgeting.

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Thanks for stopping by and I hope you achieve financial success!

Previously posted on The Art of Financial Planning.

— Jared Friedman Independent Certified Financial Planner in NJ