Dime Finance

smart money.

Planning for Personal Finance

Getting your financial situation under control sounds daunting, but it’s an essential aspect of adulthood, and a great way to potentially save some money. In general, planning for personal finance can help you prepare for retirement, develop more robust savings, and fortify your portfolio– the steps that I will outline here will be general enough for you to apply them to ANY personal finance goal you want to work toward. Before setting personal finance goals, you should tabulate your finances and compile a summary that is easy to read and make changes to.

Step 1. Summarize your finances into a single statement for ease of use.

The purpose of this first step is to create an at-a-glance financial summary which you can use to determine what financial goals are within your grasp. To summarize your finances, you should compile all of your recent bank and portfolio statements, tax forms, asset values, liabilities (debts and mortgages), and yearly income. Making an Excel worksheet will probably be the easiest way to record this information. If you want to get fancy, you can incorporate depreciation and appreciation of your assets, incomes, and liabilities into the Excel sheet using a few equations, but this isn’t a necessary step– only the most diehard of financial planners need a financial summary that will be accurate for years to come. Once you’ve summarized the state of your finances once, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Step 2. Figure out what you want to use your assets for, and set a realistic goal.

Want to save up for a car? This is the step where you think about whether it’s worthwhile or not, and whether you’re willing to commit resources to getting the car. At this stage, your first question to yourself should be, “what scale of time do I want to set goals on?” A goal of “buy a house” may not be a goal attainable this year, but within five years, it will be, assuming you have the income. Remember to keep track of your goals, and understand that goals can overlap timewise, but not moneywise– you can’t both buy a house in the Hamptons and a house in Boston using the same 400,000. Make sure that your assets will grow to cover the costs of all of your goals by the time you hope to accomplish that goal, and remember to take into account potential emergencies which may drain your assets more than you predicted. It may be helpful to prioritize your assets, and set aside some of your assets as expendable in the name of acquiring other assets; if you’re willing to sell your second car to pay for the new house, mark that down in your goals. Often, selling assets to buy other assets makes acquiring the second asset possible much sooner, which may ultimately save you money.

Step 3. Make a plan.

In step 2, we already started to consider which assets we were willing to part with in order to achieve our goals; this was the start of the planning process. The continuation of the planning process is quite simple: how am I going to come up with enough money to achieve my goal? Will I save a percentage of my income for a long amount of time, or should I rely on my stock portfolio to appreciate at a certain rate? Can I save money on the house if I use a different construction firm? These kinds of questions are relevant in the planning stage. At a minimum, the planning stage should detail how you are going to afford your goal. More specific ideas and ways of cutting costs are up to you, but not necessary. A more detailed plan will make your life easier, but it may end up needing to be retooled as a result of unforeseen circumstances. Benchmarks and deadlines are useful tools to make sure that you’re on track to accomplish your plan; be sure to be realistic about your expectations.

Step 4. Go for it.

Start doing what your plan says for the period of time that you need to accomplish your goal. Keep a close watch on your finances, and update your financial summary as needed. Make sure that your plan reaches your deadlines and benchmarks on time, and if it doesn’t, adjust your planning accordingly. If unforeseen circumstances delay your plan in a radical way, you may want to stop and reformulate it from the top, or alter your goals to be more in line with what you can accomplish. Don’t be afraid to ask a professional financial manager for help; personal finance can be a real chore if you don’t keep up with it.