Creating a 5-Year Plan For Your Finances
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The Cheshire Cat famously told Alice that if she didn't care where she ended up, it didn't matter which way she headed. Think about this when you contemplate making a five-year financial plan. It's not at the top of on anyone's fun list, but the chances of achieving your goals increase when you figure out where you want to go and lay out a road map to get there. Here are some tips to get you started.
Setting goals is important, but goals alone are not enough. Anyone who has ever made New Year's resolutions knows how quickly they can disappear when it comes time to change those destructive habits. That's why you should invest time and effort into making a personal financial plan that you're likely to stick to.
Five years is not the long-term future — it's more like the immediate future — so identify the most important financial goals for you and your family right now. Miranda Marquit, money expert and founder of the blog Planting Money Seeds, emphasizes that setting priorities first is critical. "The first thing you should do is decide on your priorities," she says. "Understand what matters most to you. Unless you know what's important to you, it's impossible to manage money in a way that will allow you to reach your goals."
Evaluating the Gap
Create a very clear picture of the financial gap you hope to bridge in the next five years. Start with detailing where you are now in terms of income, debt and assets, including savings. Then project forward in each category and make note of the goals and priorities you've identified. This may require a reality check. If you have no savings now, setting a goal of $1 million in savings creates a gap too wide to cross in five years. Keep things realistic because the next phase is to set a path from one step to the next.
Road-Mapping Your Future
You'll need a viable road map to create a practical 5-year financial plan. Figure out alternative savings and spending strategies that will lead you in the right direction. These often involve reallocating existing resources, such as cutting spending, or generating new resources, like getting a second job. "After you know what matters to you and what you want your money to accomplish, you can start figuring out what you need to do to get there," Marquit says. "Making your 5-year plan should be about what you hope to accomplish, then breaking down your next moves, whether they involve finding a way to earn more money, investing, paying off debt or saving up for your goals."
Implementing Your Plan
After you've selected your goals and identified the financial alternatives you must adopt to achieve them, you're on your way. Break those five-year goals into five separate years, then divide the first year's goals into 12 one-month segments. For example, if your five-year savings goal is $60,000 for a down payment on a house, that's $12,000 the first year, or $1,000 a month. You'll need to tuck away $250 a week to make that happen. Make daily and weekly goals that will help you get to the finish line the first month.
Don't be thrown off when unforeseen obstacles arise, because they will. You may have to adjust your plan on a regular basis to work through unexpected issues that pop up.