A new year brings a new start, making it the perfect time to rethink your financial plan or create one from scratch. No matter where you may be in the financial planning process, there are simple steps you can take to create a brighter financial future for yourself.



What Are the Steps Involved in the Financial Planning Process?

Setting realistic financial goals can help you get started on the financial planning process. Consider where you are financially, and where you’d like to be. Meeting your financial goals is a journey, and your financial plan is the roadmap you’ll use to get to where you want to go.

Here’s how you can build a comprehensive financial plan that will help you meet your goals:

  • Create a budget. You can craft your budget by determining how much money you have coming in and how much you have going out. List all your sources of income, and what you spend each month on various expenses.

This will help you get a better picture of where you need to adjust your spending to meet your goals. For example, if you’re spending more money than you’re bringing in, consider making some cuts.

  • Make lists. When you go shopping, make a list of what you need to buy and stick to it. Consider your monthly budget, and as you add things to your cart, keep track of how much each item costs. That way, you won’t overspend when buying groceries or other essential items.
  • Plan for the short- and long-term. Think about what you’d like to achieve within the next year and in the future. Saving for short-term expenses such as a vacation, a new laptop, or gifts for friends and family is generally achievable within a year.

Long-term expenses such as paying for college tuition, purchasing a new car, saving for retirement, or buying a home will require saving for more than a year, so take that into consideration when planning how much you need to save. It’s a good idea to set aside some money for emergencies, too.

  • Take advantage of compound interest. One of the best ways to grow your savings is through compound interest earned in a savings account. When you put money into a savings account, it earns interest. That interest is added to your savings balance. Then, your total balance will continue to earn interest, which will increase your savings exponentially over time.

Financial Planning for Retirement

You can start planning for retirement at any age; it’s never too late or too early to set your goals. As you think about your goals, consider how much money you’ll need to retire comfortably.

Here are a few ways you can create your financial plan for retirement:

  • Participate in your employer’s 401(k) plan. A 401(k) plan is a great way to grow your retirement savings, especially if your employer’s plan matches your contributions. A 401(k) plan allows you to contribute a percentage of your pre-tax salary to a tax-deferred investment account.

You can maximize your 401(k) plan by contributing the amount your employer will match, and increasing your contributions as your salary grows. However, it’s important to consider your 401(k) plan’s contribution limits, as well as the penalties for withdrawing funds early.

  • Open an individual retirement account (IRA). An IRA is another option to help you save for retirement. An IRA is an investment account you can use to grow your savings. There are four types of IRAs: traditional, Roth, SIMPLE, and SEP. All four types of IRAs have tax benefits and contribution limits. To learn more about the differences between the four types of IRAs, read our blog. 

Getting on the Path to Financial Success

Achieving your financial goals is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time and patience to create a financial plan that suits you and your lifestyle.

Taking advantage of the various retirement planning accounts available to you will help you navigate saving for retirement – no matter where you are in your financial journey. Whether your financial goals are large or small, creating a financial plan will set you on the path to success.

At Great Lakes Credit Union, we’re banking for a greater good. We’re dedicated to empowering our members through financial education, community giveback efforts, innovative products and services, and competitive interest rates. Learn more about our financial education events.

If you or someone you know needs help creating a financial plan, contact us.

This blog was adapted from one of our “Great to Know!” videos. You can check out other videos in the series on our YouTube channel.

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