Any successful financial strategy includes several key components. It is important to understand their importance. The final strategy will include solutions, including specific products and time horizons.
This article is designed to give you a framework for the issues involved in developing a strategy for Financial Freedom. Many of the articles in our 8 Minutes to Financial Freedom in 40 Days will reference this post. If you haven’t already subscribed to 8 Minutes, click here and join Money Bible on the journey to Financial Freedom.
FREETIC is an acronym for the 7 elements of financial planning. The illustration was drawn by my friend Taylor Springle.
—Financial Freedom (or retirement): Some people want to work the rest of their lives, but others eagerly anticipate retirement so they can travel and devote more time to hobbies and their families. And some people fear the prospect of retirement because they have heard reports of the impending collapse of Social Security and the rising costs of long-term care and Medicare.
Whether you actually quit work, continue working, or change vocations to become a full-time volunteer, you need a clear plan to achieve financial freedom and accomplish your dreams.
How do you define financial freedom?
—Risk management: We deal with many risks in our lives. These risks range from minor car accidents to catastrophic injury or death. Our experiences of long-term illnesses and disability can cause severe financial hardships, and they can be a burden on those we love. Some of the pain can be alleviated with properly planned insurance.
What keeps you awake at night?
Is it time to meet with your insurance professional for a thorough review of your insurance plan?
Are there areas of risk that you need to address?
Are you paying too much for coverage you don’t need?
Are you ignoring risk that would be inexpensive to cover with insurance?
—Education plan: It is important to start putting money aside for college as early as possible. There are many options, each with specific features. Education planning can be challenging because of the complexities of tax considerations, management fees, parental income limitations, and other issues. For example, some accounts charge a penalty if the money is not used for college costs. Saving money, borrowing money, and financial aid are some obvious ways to pay for college.
Your overall financial strategy should include solutions that insure your children will be able to attend college to achieve their dreams.
Do you have a plan to pay for college?
Does your child think college is a privilege, a requirement, an investment, or a party?
—Estate planning: Estate planning is a process that determines how to distribute your property during your life and at your death according to your goals and objectives. Without advance planning, more of your assets may go to the federal government in taxes instead of the people you love.
The issues that will affect your estate include taxes, probate, liquidity, and incapacity. Your strategy can consist of solutions that are simple and inexpensive (e.g., a will or life insurance). If your estate is large, however, the process can be complex and expensive, involving professionals in estate planning. Even modest portfolios, however, can grow into large ones if they are managed properly, so every person needs to consider estate planning, either now or in the future.
When was the last time you updated your will?
Will the next tax law changes impact your estate plan?
—Tax planning: The goal of tax planning is to minimize federal income tax liability while maximizing the after-tax return on investments. Typically, deferring some income in a 401k, 403b, deductible IRA, or other tax-advantaged accounts reduces taxable income. Roth IRA’s are excellent vehicles for many Americans to save for tax-free income.
Each person’s tax planning strategy is based on individual income and should include solutions that defer taxes and offer tax-free growth whenever possible. Some individuals need expert tax advice in order to design the best strategy; but standard solutions work well for most people.
Are you investing in a 401k plan at work?
Are you investing in a tax deductible IRA?
Are you investing in Roth IRA?
Are you paying yourself first?
—Investments: Almost limitless investment choices are available to every investor. Your strategy is designed to get the highest return within your tolerance for risk and your time horizon. No one can guarantee a profit or protect against a loss in a declining market, but dollar cost averaging (using automatic deductions) takes some of the guesswork out of investing. Asset allocation is the most important step in diversifying your portfolio. You can balance risk and return by spreading your dollars among different types of assets, such as stocks, bonds, and cash equivalents. Different types of assets carry different levels of risk and potential for return, and these investment vehicles typically don’t respond to market forces in the same way at the same time.
A long-term strategy will help you ride out the ups and downs of the market to build a sizeable investment account over your time horizon.
Do you know your time horizon?
Are you afraid to take any risk?
Is all of your money in cash?
Have you considered how inflation might impact your retirement plan?
—Cash flow: Cash flow (or a spending plan) is a process to measure, plan, and prioritize spending and saving. Your commitment to financial success requires a clear strategy for managing cash. An analysis of cash flow (spending plan) is the starting point in any financial strategy; it is not optional.
Analyze your current financial position honestly and realistically, clarify your goals, and develop a clear financial strategy using The Blueprint for Financial Success. On an annual basis, measure your progress. What matters most in your entire financial strategy is your commitment to success for yourself and the people you love.
Do you have a spending plan?
When would it make sense for a person to have a spending plan?
Does it scare you to think about a spending plan or are you more afraid of life without the possibility of a plan?