With the start of a new year many of us will take the time to reflect on resolutions for the coming year. Some of the more popular resolutions tend to be health related or about relationships, work, and school, but rarely (or at least infrequently enough) do we look at any financial resolutions. Often times we wait until a tragedy occurs to deal with our finances, but just like with your health, a little preventative maintenance can go a long way. So the next question is, where do we begin?
Any type of discussion on finances should always start with a financial plan. One of the big myths about financial planning is that it is only for those who have enough money to invest. While savings and investing should be part of a sound financial plan, other important topics should be addressed as well. Topics such as budgeting, debt repayment, retirement and how to protect yourself from tragedies should also be included in any financial planning discussion.
Now that you know where to start with improving your financial well being, how do you get access to a financial plan? Probably the easiest and one of the most overlooked places to get financial planning help is from your bank. Many financial institutions offer financial planning as a free service where a financial advisor will meet with you to guide you through the process and at the end, provide you with a complete financial plan. Another similar resource you may have available to you is if you have a group retirement savings plan through your work. The company that manages the group plan may offer financial planning through one of their advisors or they may offer financial planning tools through their website. In today’s digital age, there are plenty of resources available through the Internet where you can find a financial advisor to help guide you or use a website to do it yourself. You'll also be able to find plenty of phone apps for financial planning. The challenge really isn’t where to find helpful resources, but rather which one to choose.
So how do you choose? For starters you could ask your close family and friends. Talking about your personal finances can be considered taboo, but you don’t have to get into the details of your situation or theirs. All you’re asking for is who they use and what they like or dislike about it. It should be the same as asking for a referral to a good plumber or electrician. Another potential avenue is through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if it is offered through your employment benefits plan. EAPs are becoming more mainstream with employee benefit plans and these types of programs offering employees and their family members support and guidance for a wide variety of changes and challenges in their lives and managing your money is normally one of the many things that is covered. The EAP may not provide the financial planning help directly but would offer advice on where you can access it. When it comes to finding the right financial planner or finding the right tool for you to do your own financial planning there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so do some research and maybe a little trial and error may be required. Another thing to consider is that over time, as you become more knowledgeable about financial planning yourself, your needs will change and so too should the resources that you use.
Making a financial plan can be a key contributor for maintaining good financial health and it should also be something that you review on a regular basis, but the most important part is resolving to start one!