October is Financial Planning Month: 9 Steps to Get Ahead

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October isn’t just about who the Chicago Bears are playing Sunday or the season of spook and pumpkin spice – it’s also National Financial Planning Month! Whether you want to eliminate debt, budget more wisely, or invest in your future, building a financial plan is a great place to start. And with the power of comprehensive wealth management on your side, positioning yourself for lifelong success is simple.

What is Financial Planning?

When you think of financial planning, budgeting or retirement planning might spring to mind first. You might also consider questions like, “How often should you meet with your financial advisor?” And while these are crucial elements of comprehensive wealth management, they’re not the whole story.

The power of financial planning is in the plan. It’s about analyzing your current situation, trimming unnecessary costs, and setting aspirational – yet achievable – long-term goals. Then, you make (and follow!) a budget that helps you meet your goals, adjusting as you go.

In other words, financial planning is about taking charge of your future – not letting life drag you where it may.

1.      Build a Budget Around Your Goals

Before you Google “comprehensive wealth management near me” (that comes later), take a moment to decide what’s important to you. For example, do you want to:

  • Own a house?
  • Take frequent vacations?
  • Go back to school?
  • Spend more time with your family?

Once you’ve decided on your goals, you can start building a budget to meet them. Start by looking at your bank statements to get a grasp on your monthly spending and saving. Then, compare your spending to your goals and ask yourself if your money currently works for you.

For instance, if you want to own your house, you might be throwing money away by renting instead. And if you want to save $10,000 in two years toward a car for your eldest, you’ll know you need to save far more than couple hundred monthly.

But if your spending and goals don’t align, it’s time to reconfigure your budget to track and optimize your dollars.

2.      Eliminate Costly Expenses

The budgeting process often includes a financial reckoning – that is, identifying overspending and curbing excess. If you eat out frequently or only buy the most expensive brands, you might be spending the dollars that could buy you the future you want. Instead, consider switching to budget-friendly alternatives or cutting some expenses altogether.

And if you’re only cutting a few dollars here or there, remember small changes add up over time. If you save just $5 per day, that’s over $1,800 per year going toward your goals. Sometimes this is as simple as packing your lunch or visiting the barista less.

3.      Review Your Insurance to Save a Bundle

One of the most common financial planning mistakes people make is leaving life on autopilot instead of seeking opportunities to downsize their expenses. Insurance is a great example – if you’re not looking, you might miss rate changes or a competitor offering a better deal. This can leave hundreds of dollars on the table or cost you dearly during an emergency when you find out you’ve been underinsured. But evaluating your insurance policies once a year is the best way to seize better protection and lower costs. Every dollar you find makes a real difference in reaching your long-term goals.

4.      Shake Off That Bad Debt

Unfortunately for many people, debt is the quickest option to get ahead, be it taking out a mortgage or covering emergencies with a credit card. But if you don’t get ahead of your debt, it can feel impossible to get back to solid financial footing. And the longer debt (and interest) accumulates, the bigger it grows – and the longer it takes to pay down. That’s why prioritizing debt payoff is an essential part of the financial planning process.

5.      Pay Yourself First…

Paying yourself first is a crucial component of comprehensive wealth management. But if you find that making regular contributions to savings is a struggle, you can always automate a deposit every payday.

Not only do automatic payments make forgetting to save impossible, but soon, you won’t even miss the money leaving your account. And if you consider saving just as important as paying your mortgage, it’ll be even easier to meet your long-term goals.

6.      …And Don’t Forget Your Emergency Fund!

Even diligent savers often forget to set aside a little extra for emergencies. But without a dedicated emergency fund, you may have to tap your retirement savings – or worse, your credit card – which can derail the rest of your financial plans.

Fortunately, you can soften the blow by saving even $100 a month in a separate, “emergencies only” account. The key is to leave the funds alone until a true emergency comes along – and then replenish any funds you use. And if you can take advantage of added interest in a high-yield savings account, more power to you!

7.      Make Room for Retirement Planning

Retirement planning is an essential component of saving for the future you want. It’s not enough to set aside money and hope you’ll have enough come your 65th birthday – the path to success involves actively planning your future and saving to reach your goals. So, if you haven’t started searching for “retirement advisors near me” yet, now’s the time to start.

8.      Don’t Forget to Invest

But retirement planning is so much more than saving money in a bank account – it’s also about investing. And if you regularly contribute to a 401(k), mutual fund, or IRA (individual retirement account), you’ve already started!

You can also use investing to meet your other financial goals and build your wealth. But investing without a plan – or the proper research – is a surefire way to make mistakes. That’s where a Professional Financial Advisor comes in.

9.      Stop By the Best Fiduciary Financial Planner in Chicagoland

If you’re ready to take charge of your future this Financial Planning Month, you can stop searching for “comprehensive wealth management near me.” You’ve already found one of the best fiduciary financial planners in Chicagoland.

Here at SGL, our fee-based fiduciaries are experts in comprehensive wealth management. Whether you need financial planning services, help building a budget, or investing expertise, our Fiduciary Advisors can provide the wealth management products you need to meet life head-on all the months of the year including the spooky ones!