Financial literacy isn’t something most people learned in school. For some, it’s wisdom built through trial-and-error. Some ideas are very simple: spend less than you earn; pay off credit cards in full on time every month; save some money for emergencies; contribute enough to your 401k to get the company match. Here are some more in-depth ways to manage your finances and plan for the future.
The Right Foundation
For your financial plan, you should start with the basics:
- Know your budget – control your expenses so that you bring in more than you spend
- Build an emergency fund – start with $1,000, then build it up to 3x your monthly budget
- Contribute to your 401k – start with enough to get your employer match if they offer one
- Pay down high interest debts – anything very much over 4% should be paid off first, starting with the highest rate
- Max your IRA – research whether traditional or Roth is better for you
- Save more for retirement – increase your 401k contributions and consider using a Health Savings Account as an investment vehicle that’s triple-tax-advantaged
- Save for other goals
But different people have different goals, so a one-size-fits-all approach just won’t cut it. While the basics above are a good, healthy mindset for approaching personal finance, your situation is unique. This is where a financial planning professional can help.
“Having the right foundation and a path to success is the first step,” said Wesley Kotys, Kotys Wealth Professionals President and Wealth Manager, “but you need to be able to change the plan as the situation changes.”
Life moves in mysterious ways, and situations can change in either direction at any time. It can help to have a trusted financial advisor to help navigate those changes as they happen. Consider consulting a financial advisor if any of these apply to you:
- You want to retire early
- You have received an inheritance
- You have lost your job or started a new one
- You are ready to sell the business you built
- You want to set up a 529 education fund for your children or grandchildren
- You are retired and would like to travel or buy a winter home in a sunnier state
- You would like to leave a legacy gift to a charity close to your heart
“A good financial planner can help keep track so the changes of life are reflected in the changes to the plan,” Kotys said. “Things will happen. Life will change. The plan needs to change, so financial planning is not a one-time event. It’s a process.”
What to Expect
When you’re ready to begin the process of creating your own financial roadmap, it might be best to seek an advisor to help. The right financial planner will have insights to share, but can also act as an accountability partner to keep you on the path even through the bumps and bends.
Expect a lot of questions at your first meeting.
“It’s similar to an interview,” Kotys said. “You have to dig deeper to get to the finer details. Then you can understand the goals and execute strategies to meet those goals.”
After your first meeting, you should leave with a better understanding of your current financial picture and a plan to push forward toward the goals that mean most to you and your family.
“A lot of times the planning process will bring people a lot of peace of mind,” Kotys said. “The answers to the questions give people peace.”
An Advisor You Can Trust
A lot has been done to instill trust in the industry, but there are still advisors out there who are legally out for themselves. In Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook, Tony Robins spends a lot of time outlining the difference the right financial advisor can make. He focuses on finding a fiduciary, who is legally required to look out for their clients’ best interests.
If a financial advisor is not a fiduciary, chances are they are expected to sell you specific products – products that might not be in your best interest. In return, they receive compensation for themselves.
“Most people need some form of financial advice throughout their lifetime,” Kotys said. “It’s important to have the right structure, to know your advisor is an advocate, a fiduciary, and that their structure puts the client’s interests first at all times.”
No matter what your situation, seeking the guidance of a qualified financial planner who has the education, experience, knowledge, and character to direct your financial goals is a wise decision. For more information and resources, visit www.kotyswealthpro.com or contact Kotys Wealth Professionals at 877-465-9624.