Can I Build My Own Financial Plan?
Working with an adviser might work for you, but sometimes it is too expensive or not necessary - so how can you start making a D.I.Y. financial plan?
We all depend on professional experts. Doctors, builders and car mechanics for example. When something goes wrong with your body, house, or vehicle, you don’t want to unleash your unqualified “skills” on something so precious.
But having said that, there’s a lot we can do ourselves to keep things running smoothly and delay the time when expert help becomes necessary, right? With our health, we might research healthy eating, get a fitness tracker and focus on getting a decent night’s sleep. With cars, we all know the value of checking the oil and tyres. And you wouldn’t leave simple home repairs undone until your house is in ruins – most of us eventually learn how to unblock a drain, change a fuse and hang curtains.
Well, good news for all you aspiring finance queens out there - exactly the same DIY approach can be used for your money matters, to delay or even negate the need for a professional financial advisor.
What do I need to know?
First, you need to know yourself. What do you really, really want for life? A change of career? A round the world adventure? To move to the country? To retire at 50 and spend the rest of your life watching tv or travel the world? Know your dreams, and you’ll have something to aim for.
So how do I get there?
You need to figure out your net worth now, and how much money you’ll need to save to get where you want to be. It’s (almost) that simple, although we’ll add in a few safety-net items along the way like an emergency fund, tax awareness and insurance.
We’ve talked about net worth before, as has every other personal finance blogger. But just to remind you, it’s the sum you’re left with when you factor in all your debts and outgoings to your savings and assets.
Next, figure out how much you need to save to meet your mid- and long-term goals. Long-term goals are tricky because so much can change between now and retirement, but you can check on these every few years and see if you’re on the right track. Mid-term ones are easier. Want to own a home by the time you’re 40? Pay off one of your credit cards before next Christmas? Make that round the world trip before 2020? Great. You have a time frame, so whip out your calculator and see how much you need to save per month to make it happen.
Now you have these figures, it’s time to look at your budget. Are you spending fifty pounds a month on books and magazines? Maybe you could go digital on some of these things to pinch some pennies. Is lunch from a café a daily thing for you? B.Y.O., baby!
But what about investing?
Despite what some indignant baby boomers say, quitting your weekly avocado toast won’t actually let you retire early. You need to lock on to some major-league saving for that. You can’t become a stocks and shares expert overnight, so spend a few months reading up on stocks, bonds, ISAs and pension pots. And if you’re a total rookie, there’s no shame in getting to grips with interest rates, mortgages and tax rules either. There’s so much free information out there online. Make this your personal, private evening or Saturday morning class. It might sound boring, but you’ll be motivated because every second you put into it, you’re accelerating your path to what you really want to be doing at 9am on Monday mornings.
What else do I need to remember?
- What are the only two certainties in life? Yes, our old friends death and taxes.
- Make a will.
- Get insurance for essentials that you can’t afford to replace.
- Understand your income tax – you could be getting rebates you don’t even know about, for things like childcare or renting out a room. We wrote about this the other week and it really is a way you can ramp up your monthly savings.
- And to ease you through any other bumps in the road, consider an emergency fund that will let you live for a few months (frugally!) in case you get sick or suddenly lose your job.
Finally – talk it out
One of the best things about employing a financial advisor is that you’re forced to verbalise your goals and get used to talking about money. Well, you can do that with anyone! So make lists – start a pretty bullet journal, if that’s your thing – and KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING. You’ll be mistress of your financial destiny in no time, probably playing it forward to your friends to empower them to become DIY money planners too.
All this depends on your personal situation so if you are not sure or it's all too complicated, go find an adviser!