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Financial Planning

Achieving life goals: Don't hope for it. Plan on it.

Our Two Cents

Financial success rarely just happens. Achieving goals often starts with planning regardless of how much money you have and no matter where you are in life.

Achieving life goals without a plan is like finding a remote destination without a map. Wanting to get there isn't enough. You also want a clearly defined route, checkpoints—and a few solid financial survival skills—to help to turn goals into reality.

No matter what you want in life, planning can typically help you get there faster and with less uncertainty. In fact, according to the 2019 Schwab Modern Wealth Survey, people who make and stick to a financial plan feel more confident about reaching their goals. Other research has shown that those who have a plan and stick with it achieve three times more wealth than those without a plan.1

What is a financial plan?

A financial plan is an actionable report that captures your current financial situation and life goals along with an analysis, projections, and steps to keep you moving in the right direction. A good plan can help you:

  • Get a clear picture of your financial life.
  • Set and prioritize short- and long-term goals.
  • Estimate the costs of and timing to reach your goals.
  • Create an action plan to help you stay on track.
What goes into it What you get out of it
Your financial details—A breakdown and analysis of your current financial situation including your income and expenses, account balances and statements, investments, assets and debts in relation to your goals. Shows you where you are today—See where you stand now financially including identifying any gaps and opportunities.
Your goals and time horizon—Saving for milestones like buying a home, college and retirement? Whatever your future holds, consider how soon you want to achieve it. Establishes where you want to go—A list of goals prioritized by the level of importance and when you want to reach them.
Your next steps—Take action based on plan recommendations, and monitor and update your plan annually, and any time your goals or life circumstances change. Shows you how to get there—A personalized set of actions to help you reach your goals, by showing you what to do next to and how to take advantage of opportunities.

Who needs a financial plan and when?

Anyone with goals will benefit from having a specific plan to achieve them. And the sooner you get your goals on track, the better. Your plan can help you make smart financial moves based on your situation and goals, like how much to save for retirement, when to retire, and how to invest and borrow wisely.

Many financial planning tools are online and interactive, so you can explore various scenarios and get a feel for what might be possible, such as:

  • What if I want to retire at 55?
  • What if my child wants to go to graduate school?
  • What if we buy a second home?
  • What if I quit my job and start my own business? Stay home with the kids?
  • What if the stock market goes down/inflation goes up?

Make your own plan or hire an advisor?

There are several great options to consider. Depending on your needs, you can:

  • Ask a financial professional for advice and basic planning.
  • Work with a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) professional for comprehensive financial planning and specialized support.

Who needs comprehensive professional planning?

If your financial situation is complex or you're going through a major life change, you may want a complete financial plan that covers:

  • Investment and retirement planning
  • Banking and credit management
  • Education and family support
  • Risk management and insurance planning
  • Tax and estate planning

How much does a financial plan cost?

Financial plan costs vary, as some may charge a one-time or hourly fee while others may be free. Additionally, financial planning is often included in investment management services, and in some cases even comes with subscription-based pricing.

Keep in mind that a financial plan doesn't have to be expensive to be good. But paid professional planning advice can be worth it, depending on the level of complexity and advice needed.

Get on track to meet your financial goals today.

No matter what kind of planning you choose, the most important thing is to take action. Check in with your bank or brokerage to see what they offer. You can also learn more and get started here.

1. Annamaria Lusardi and Olivia S. Mitchell, Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement Wellbeing, National Bureau of Economic Research, 05/2011.

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The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal, or investment planning advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner, or investment manager.

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