personal financial planning and analysis

when it comes to your money and your plans, it can be hard to balance short-term wants, long-term dreams, and those unexpected events that out of your control. it takes you step-by-step through what you need to know to create a personal financial plan and help get your money in order. in nine steps, you have a nice framework to build on throughout your life. just start with one task and keep going. (or just tackle the whole thing on a long, rainy weekend with a big pot of coffee and a dog at your feet.) consider this your monthly cash flow and savings/investing plan. give yourself permission to decide where and how to send your money with our budgeting worksheet (pdf).

all the planning in the world won’t help if life throws you a curveball and you’re not prepared financially. our quiz will help you decide when to use these savings. use our debt management worksheet (pdf) to log your numbers and find the right balance. people with a good financial plan hope for the best, but plan for the unexpected. use our disability and life insurance worksheet (pdf) to log your coverage and identify any gaps. even if it’s a long way off, think about what you want your money to do for you when you retire, and create a plan to make it happen. to reach your mid- and long-term goals, take your savings strategy and put an engine behind it. you don’t have to be wealthy, old, married, or a parent to need an estate plan, which also lays out who makes financial and health care decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself.

to make the most of your income and savings, it’s important to become financially literate, so you can distinguish between good and bad advice and make smart decisions. one of the fastest ways to ruin your credit score is to constantly pay bills late—or even worse, miss payments (see tip five). due to the covid-19 pandemic, the three major credit bureaus are providing free credit reports once a week through at least april 2022. to protect the assets in your estate and ensure that your wishes are followed when you die, be sure you make a will and—depending on your needs—possibly set up one or more trusts. take time to learn the difference between a roth 401(k) and a traditional 401(k) if your company offers both. whether it’s a vacation, a purchase, or an occasional night on the town, you need to enjoy the fruits of your labor. the key to getting your finances on the right track isn’t learning a new set of skills.

million mile secrets and the points guy each teach you how to travel for a fraction of the retail price by using credit card rewards. lacking the discipline required to save rather than spend could keep you from saving the 10% to 15% of gross income that could have been stashed in a money market account for short-term needs. alas, when it did, you broke that vow and held on to the stock. for one thing, many young adults and students need to think about paying for the biggest expenses of their lifetime, such as a new car, home, or postsecondary education. the rule of thumb for young investors is that they should have a long-term outlook and stick to a buy-and-hold philosophy. it takes discipline to set aside money for retirement over the years, get yourself out of debt, and avoid overspending.

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