One way to ensure that you don’t skip over any step in creating, implementing, and managing your financial planning is to use tools, resources, and checklists to help get yourself and keep yourself organized and on track.
Tools to Use for Financial Planning
Your bank account probably offers impressive tools that you can use, so check there first. For example, if you bank with USAA.com, they offer many of the tools mentioned here for free to their account holders.
Most credit unions and banks today offer some measure of budgeting and financial planning information. They might even offer free financial planners to help you make decisions, so don’t be afraid to call and ask.
In the meantime, here are two cloud-based options to use for budgeting and financial planning:
- Mint.com – Mint is an inexpensive option for managing your budget online. You can use their free budget tracker to plan your 50/30/20 budget or to set up a zero-based budget. It’s up to you. It connects with your bank account, credit cards, and other accounts so you can do most things through one dashboard. Setting up takes some time, but it will make everything simpler as it’s all in one place.
- YNAB.com – This software helps you avoid hand- to-mouth paycheck to paycheck so that you can get out of debt. This software works best for those who want to use a zero-based budget method. It offers goal tracking, reports, and even personal support through free online workshops.
These two solutions will work for almost anyone and any needs. They are full-fledged financial software systems that you can use, no matter how complicated your financial situation is.
Checklists, Templates, and Cheat Sheets You Can Use for Financial Planning
Sometimes it’s a good idea to have access to easy checklists and templates to help you plan your finances. One of the best websites for finding these aside from your bank and looking on the Microsoft Office site for templates, is to join and use a site like Everplans.com.
Everplans.com helps you get all your documents together, from insurance to bank accounts and more. It’s a great way to get things organized in such a way that makes it assessable for you and your family if and when needed. You can even use their system to get your work history organized. At only 75 dollars per year right now, it is a steal.
Another good place to find checklists, templates, and cheat sheets for personal financial planning is Smartsheet.com. Some templates are free to use with your current software like MS Excel and MS Word for budgeting and financial planning, and some you need to pay for.
The other place to check out is Templatelab.com. Here you can find dozens of professional financial plan templates that you can use. You can get a checkbook register, a bill pay checklist, and other financial planning templates that are super-useful and helpful. When it comes to developing your personal financial plan, getting the education and professional advice that you need is imperative.
While you can do it on your own, there is a lot to learn. You can benefit from using a financial professional to help you get ahead of the game and learn more a lot faster than if you do it on your own. One reason for this is that you don’t know what you don’t know, so you may not think of the right questions to ask or know what to look up to educate yourself. Working with a professional helps eliminate that problem so that you can learn the things you don’t even realize you need to learn.
Professionals That Can Help
There are numerous professionals that you can hire to help you with your financial planning. Different professionals help with different areas, but it’s always a good idea to rely on a professional to help, at least when you first get started.
A good professional will:
- Get to Know You and Understand Your Wants and Needs – They’ll take stock of where you are now. They will also recognize where you want to go based on conversations with you. Make sure to be clear with them about how you would like your future to look, while also dealing with your present.
- Help Clarify Your Goals – As you work with the professional, they’ll help you realize goals that you may not have considered, or help you visualize the goals you have considered.
- Understand Your Current Resources – They’ll go over your current situation and make recommendations about how to improve as time moves forward based on the reality of where you are now.
- Make Goals and Move You Toward Reaching Those Goals – Once you figure out your starting place and compare it to where you want to go financially, you’ll start moving toward those goals. The professional will check up on you periodically to help ensure you’re still on track. Plus, you can call on them whenever you have a question before you decide.
Once you start working with a financial professional, you’ll be surprised at how much better you plan and deal with your finances throughout your life. Even if you hire someone to help you get started, it’s going to make a massive difference in your present and your future.
Tips for Choosing the Right Financial Professionals
Financial professionals are available for hire to help you with your financial planning. For some people, learning about everything themselves is best but for others, hiring someone is best. If you choose to hire someone, make sure you know what to look for to choose the right financial professionals.
Types of Financial Professionals include:
- Personal Financial Planners – This is a professional who works with you on a long-term basis, helping you and teaching you to reach and meet your long-term and short-term financial goals in all aspects of your life. Some advisors work on commission and some work for a set hourly rate.
- Financial Advisor – A financial advisor works with someone short term to help make certain types of investments or open other types of accounts. These days people who call themselves planners versus advisors are often the same, so you’ll want to ask them what they do.
- Accountants – Many people think only business owners need accountants, but an accountant can help you with more than just your business. They can also help you do your taxes and do some tax planning (if they have a CPA) so that you save money on taxes while meeting your goals. Look for bookkeepers, CPAs, or enrolled agents depending on what type of help you need.
- Insurance Agents – Depending on the type of insurance agent you work with, some can advise on all types of insurance, including life, rental, car, and so on. They will help you find the right insurance to protect your family, your business, and your lifestyle as much as possible.
- Attorneys – There are many reasons an average person needs an attorney on occasion. When it comes to finances, the main reason you may need an attorney is to set up your will, a living trust, buy property, and things like that. It’s best to find a specialized attorney for your needs. Sometimes you may need an attorney to help you reorganize your finances through bankruptcy too.
- Investment Advisors – You’ll need this professional if you are confused about investing your money, to make it perform best for you and your needs. Some financial institutions offer investment advisors as part of their services.
- Debt Counselors – If you ever find yourself in too much debt to the point you cannot manage it yourself, you may want to hire a debt counselor or go to a service that will help you. This really should be a last-ditch effort, though, because there are faster ways to fix your finances than debt counseling.
- Money Coach – A personal coach can help you get your finances in order and plan for the future by providing education, information, and motivation.
When choosing financial experts to work with, you’ll want to ensure that they meet all legal requirements and that they can ethically help you with your finances before you go ahead. Also, you need to ensure that they are the right person to help you based on what they do. Interview multiple people to get the right person to help and always check up on their credentials to make sure they are following all the legal requirements and ethical requirements. Remember, if they tell you something that seems too good to be true, it probably is.