Personal Financial Planning: The Gift That Keeps Giving

The Christmas and New Year’s holiday season offers a great incentive for those who need to make personal financial planning a priority. The months leading up to Christmas are usually the time when people begin identifying items which they are interested in purchasing. After Christmas, we tend to shift into planning mode by making “resolutions” about things that we intend on doing, or certain behaviors that we would like to cease from doing. It is probably safe to say that completing a financial plan -and sticking to it- makes the annual “top ten” list of most important things to accomplish in the new year.Forming and maintaining good financial habits is what makes being prepared financially successful for some people. Eating healthy and exercising are both essential in order to maintain good physical health. Likewise, having a financial game plan and habitually implementing the principles and practices that a financial plan is comprised of, is necessary in order to maintain good financial health.A well written financial plan takes an in-depth and comprehensive look at a persons’ lifestyle, including their values, goals and dreams. This document should provide enough insight into the participants financial life so that the investment advisor who prepares the financial plan is able to provide professional guidance about debt management, savings, getting expenses under control, estate planning, life insurance, portfolio management & investment consulting, college planning and retirement. There are so many facets to writing, implementing and conducting an ongoing review of a comprehensive financial plan that it could take years to see the fruit of one’s labor and diligence.A comprehensively written plan may cost $500 – $1,500. Even though you may cringe at my suggestion of adding a detailed plan to your Christmas shopping list, you should think differently about incurring the expense of financial planning during the Christmas and New Year season. Consider financial planning as a gift to yourself because in a very real sense you would be giving yourself the perpetual “gift”, i.e. peace of mind! Planning financially is a fairly long process therefore it takes discipline, which is a characteristic that many people need during this time of year. Discipline to overspend, discipline to save money by diligently searching for bargains and “holiday discounts”; discipline to finally fill out that long life insurance application, or a College 529 Plan for your children vs. filling out an instant credit application for purchasing an item that will depreciate in value and one which you can truly do without.Once Christmas is past and the New Year has begun, it will take even more discipline to conform your way of living to the many recommendations contained within the pages of your financial plan. This is what makes the discipline of planning a gift.Despite the initial expense of time and money, financial planning is living on purpose and by design. It is identifying a predetermined achievable and worthwhile goal and altering the course of your life in such a way that will significantly increase your chance of obtaining your goals, living out your values and fulfilling your dreams. These qualities (values, dreams and goals) are not one time life events. This is a way of living, a certain quality of life that becomes your new reality! In fact, your former way of living should pale by comparison.Wealth management isn’t for the faint of heart. It isn’t for the person who has no intention of implementing the recommendations. Financial planning is a responsible and intentional act on your behalf to take your life where you want it to go and to paint a portrait of what you want your life to look like tomorrow. This is a gift to yourself and to your heirs. It is a good habit that your children are likely to learn and follow. This Christmas season don’t put off financial planning and in the New Year don’t make a financial planning a mere “resolution.” Cultivate the character of being a good financial steward and incorporate this discipline as your life commitment. Do this and it will prove to be the gift that keeps on giving.

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