What are the Elements of a Healthy Financial Plan?

One of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family is to develop and stick to a financial plan. In doing so, it is strongly recommended that you consult an experienced financial planner who can help you understand your current situation, identify your goals, and put strategies in place to reach those goals. Regardless of your individual goals-whether to live a comfortable retirement, educate your children, travel the world, live a debt-free life, or leave your loved ones a significant inheritance-the foundation of any healthy financial plan must encompass strategies for building wealth and strategies for protecting your wealth.


Strategies to Save and Build Wealth

There are two distinctive types of savings to which a healthy financial plan gives consideration.

Cash Reserve - Establish a cash reserve for larger purchases, vacations and emergency situations, e.g., job loss, car/house repairs, etc. Your cash reserve is the money by which you live. A fully-funded cash reserve-approximately three month's salary-gives you the ability to handle unforeseen expenses and plan for the things you want to buy and do, without threatening your monthly expenses or investments. A financial planner can help you establish a cash management plan to maximize your discretionary income (after bills), prepare for emergencies, and save for the things you want.

Investment Portfolio - The second type of savings plan is an investment portfolio-the money by which you grow. An investment portfolio is absolutely essential to your meeting your long-term financial security goals. There are many factors that should be considered when establishing an investment portfolio, including how much you will need to retire, how much you expect your pension and/or Social Security to contribute, how many years until your retirement, and so on. With this information, your financial planner will help you make the right kind of investments.


Strategies to Protect Savings and Investments

A new transmission for your car or having to replace a leaky roof will probably not put you into financial ruin, especially if you have a fully-funded cash reserve. However, disability and death have the potential to wipe out your entire savings and retirement income very quickly. In addition to the standard insurances that most people carry, e.g., health, auto, homeowners, etc., the following types of insurances are critical to a healthy financial plan.

Life Insurance - Life insurance protects those who depend on your income - your spouse, children, etc. Upon your death, your life insurance policy will pay your beneficiary a lump sum that can replace your lost income, pay off outstanding expenses (house, car), cover funeral expenses and/or provide an education for your children. The various types of life insurances will be explored in a future article.


Disability Insurance - Disability insurance is often one of the most overlooked forms of insurance, but is extremely beneficial when needed. Disability insurance replaces a portion of your lost income if you become unable to perform your job because of injury or illness. Many companies offer disability insurance as an employee benefit, but typically it only covers 60 percent of base salary, minus taxes. Discuss whether you may need additional coverage with your financial planner.

Long Term Care Insurance - Seven in 10 people will need some type of long term care. There are two ways to pay for long term care - either out of your own pocket or with long term care insurance. Neither personal health insurance nor Medicare will cover many long term care expenses, as many of the needed services (bathing, dressing, and eating) are not medically necessary in nature. Medicaid is the government program that covers long term care expenses, but as the payer of last resort, you will not be eligible for Medicaid until you have nearly depleted all of your income and savings.