You’ve never had to worry about planning out more than a couple of years at a time before. Once, it was just about graduating college, then getting through the first few years of your career. You realize now that life is about more than just as you, and moving forward you want to have a better idea of how to take care of the things you value in life. How will your kids be taken care of down the road, what can you do to maintain or improve the value of your home? These are all valuable questions you might have, and if you have no idea where to start, here’s a beginner’s guide to life planning — just for you.
1. Assess Where You are Now
You can’t draw a map to your destination if you don’t know where it is you’re beginning your journey. Before you start life planning for you and your family’s future, you need to sit down and honestly assess where you are in life right now. This means taking stock of your assets, what do you own, how much money are you and your spouse bringing in. Research how much your house is worth. Then consider what’s going out. How much are you spending each week, each month, each year?
If you notice that your expenses are exceeding your income, you might realize that your plans should also include a way to either cut your expenses or expand your income. This measure of income vs. expense doesn’t entirely have to be financial either. Consider the amount of time you are spending with work versus time spent with your spouse and children. If you’re not investing time with your family, then perhaps that’s something you should change in your future plans.
2. Consider Where You’d Like to Be in the Future
Once you know where you are currently, you need to really think about where you want you and your family to be in the next five, to ten, to twenty years. In life, there are things we can predict and other things we cannot predict. Consider your children; If you wish to continue to support them financially, you should also anticipate that their financial needs will grow over time. Will they attend college? What will you and your spouse do once they leave the house? These are all valid questions to address as you think of where you’ll be in the future. Once you have an idea where you’d like your family to be, you can start creating personal goals for you to actively work towards.
3. Don’t Pass Up the “Now Opportunities” for the “Later Goals”
Part of planning for you and your family, is understanding how long it may take to achieve a later goal. For instance, you may plan to retire in your twenty years, but if you want to have plenty of assets saved up by then, you should look into building your own retirement fund now, or increasing the value of your home to resell it down the road. The sooner you start actively working towards your goals now, the greater chance you’ll have at actually achieving them later. That’s why you should keep an ear to the ground for any possible investment opportunities.
4. Life Planning Beyond Yourself
One of the main reasons we make plans twenty to thirty years down the road, is because we want the best for our children, and their children. We know that we won’t always be around and sometimes death can occur suddenly. If you were to pass away now, would your family be able to support itself? When making plans it’s responsible to consider if your life is insured, so that your family will be taken care of when you’re not there. It’s difficult to think about, but part of planning for the future is planning beyond yourself for the good of your spouse and children.
It’s hard to anticipate everything that can happen, but planning ahead helps orient ourselves and gives us direction. By setting goals and planting seeds now, we can promise our family better lives and a brighter future.
About the Contributor
Ms. Brittany Fisher has spent more than 20 years as a CPA, and is currently working on a book about financial literacy. She also runs Financiallywell.info.