About the author: Lamar Watson, CFP®, is a Fee-Only Financial Advisor in the Washington, D.C. area that works with clients virtually across the country. Lamar's work with his clients starts with a focus on budgeting, insurance, optimizing employee benefits, investing, and retirement planning. Dream Financial Planning is a Fiduciary Financial Planning firm specifically designed to help individuals in their 30s and 40s take control of their finances and fulfill their dreams. Feel free to schedule a complimentary consultation to learn how we use the DREAM Financial Planning Process ™ to help our clients achieve their goals.
As the holiday season draws near, most people are thinking about their finances over the next few months and budgeting for how they can celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. Which is perfect timing because October is National Financial Planning Month!
Let’s use this month to celebrate the importance of proper financial planning and share some tips and tricks on how to get your financial planning in order.
Create a Budget
The first step in understanding and taking control of your finances is creating a budget and sticking to it. Everyone’s budget will look a little bit different, but the 50/30/20 rule is a good place to start.1
The 50/30/20 rule states that 50% of your budget should go to essentials, such as rent, food, and utilities; 30% should go to wants, such as entertainment or travel; and 20% should go to savings and paying off debt.
There are also a lot of helpful apps to help you stick to your budget, such as Mint, You Need a Budget (YNAB), and Honeydue for budgeting with a partner.
Back in April, I spoke with CNN to share my thoughts on budgeting, Crypto, and NFTs, in the article 5 savings mistakes people make when building their financial life.
To help guide you toward creating and managing a cash flow plan that supports your lifestyle and goals, we have created the checklist above. It covers cash flow planning basics, including:
- Income sources
- Essential and discretionary spending
- Debt and taxes
- Goal funding
- Monitoring strategies
Be Smart With Your Debt
Not all debt is created equal, meaning debt isn’t always a “bad” thing if you are smart with it. For example, taking on a car loan and making all the payments on time can help you afford a car if you don’t have enough money to pay cash and can help you build up your credit score. But be wary of high-interest debt because that can get you into problems quickly.
Understand Interest Rates
Speaking of interest rates, it’s important to understand how they impact your finances and debt. Depending on the current market and your credit score, mortgage rates generally hover between 3% and 6%. In contrast, the average credit card interest rate as of March 2022 was nearly 20%. With that high of a rate, you can see how getting into credit card debt can quickly pile up and make it hard to take control of your finances.2,3
In addition, understanding interest rates can help you make strategic financial planning decisions. Rather than paying all cash for an asset (e.g., a car or a house), if you can get a low-interest loan, you can consider investing the cash you would have spent on an investment vehicle that could generate a higher return than you are paying in interest.
For example, if you have $10,000, you might consider putting $2,000 toward a car and financing the rest at a 2% interest rate while investing the other $8,000 in the S&P 500, which has delivered a compound average annual growth rate of 10.7% per year over the past 30 years.4
Get Covered by Insurance
Lastly, another thing you can do to celebrate Financial Planning Month is to ensure that you are properly covered with the right insurance. If you have dependents or people relying on your income, life insurance is a must-have. Life insurance can ensure that the people you love will be taken care of if something were to happen to you. In addition, you should definitely consider renters or homeowners insurance, car insurance, disability insurance, and health insurance.
There are lots of things you can do to take control of your finances for National Financial Planning Month, and these are just a few. Kick off the holiday season by strengthening your financial fitness.
Dream Financial Planning Process ™
Whether you're managing student loan debt, starting a family, or considering buying your first home, the DREAM Financial Planning Process™ is tailored to the unique needs of busy professionals in their 30s and 40s. This process focuses more on short-term goals while you grow and evolve in your personal and professional life. So if you're looking for guidance on Financial Planning, optimizing employee benefits, budgeting, student loans, and managing your 401k or investments, we can help.
With uncertainty surrounding the economic stability of our country, it's okay to have fears and anxieties surrounding your savings and investments. The most productive course of action from here is to reach out to Dream Financial Planning (or whoever your trusted advisor might be) and discuss your options. It's easy to have knee-jerk reactions when it feels like the bottom is falling out, but it is imperative to make decisions using research-backed data and a level head. If you'd like a Complimentary Review and risk assessment of your investment portfolio, feel free to send me an e-mail.
In the June Newsletter, I provide a market update and a PDF guide with tips to help you handle inflation. I also shared a CNN article where I shared my thoughts on Crypto and NFTs, 5 savings mistakes people make when building their financial life. If you find any of this information helpful, feel free to sign up to receive future e-mail updates. If you find any of this information helpful, feel free to sign up to receive future newsletters via e-mail.
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