The more I read and the more I meet with people, the more I realize that setting up a financial plan is more than dollars and cents.
Yes, the better financial plans have your typical items. Save this much, invest in these things, and contribute to this retirement plan.
But the best plans not only have this to take care of your financial needs but they’re also set up in a way that your psychological needs are met as well.
Can you stick with it?
The best plan is anyone that you can stick with. When setting up your plan, go through it slowly. Take each item one step at a time and consider possible scenarios when determining a particular section.
For example, when setting up a plan for your emergency fund, figure out what’s realistic for how much you’ll need and how long it will take you to get there.
Also, figure out how it will be replenished if/when it’s ever used. Perhaps you’ll have an automatic deposit setup indefinitely?
Another thing to keep in mind is including some flexibility in your plan. For example, if part of the process is setting up a budget and your weakness is eating takeout, include a little bit of money for it.
I generally advocate for eating your meals at home, but if it’s inevitable that you’ll go out to eat, it’s better to include a little bit of it, rather than trying to avoid it.
Will you gasp every time the market dips?
Investing is a vital part of your financial plan. Investing is what helps your savings grow, but at times, your investments can lose value.
Our psychology plays a big role in our success as an investor. It’s said that we experience the pain of a loss two times stronger than we experience the joy of a gain.
That said, you need to plan accordingly to keep your emotions in check. If you let them take control of your decisions, you could end up selling your investments after you’ve already lost value, at which point it may be better for you to stay in.
Most investable assets are in a retirement plan of some sort, so your time horizon is, more than likely, long-term. 20+ years for instance. Your risk tolerance is the other part to take into consideration.
How much are you willing to lose until you say, uncle? In a six month period, would you have to sell after you lost 10%, 20%, 30%, or more? Your answer to this will help determine what you are able to stomach.
The next thing to do is to stress test your portfolio. The popular investing/research websites will have this. You plug in your portfolio with dollar amounts and ticker symbols, and then (depending on the site) you can select a variety of scenarios to see how your portfolio would do during that scenario.
The 2008 Financial Crisis is a common one.
Creating a financial plan that has the potential to meet your goals is important, and having a plan that you’re comfortable with and one that will help you sleep at night is optimal.
Make sure, when you are developing your plan, that you are factoring in your behavior as an investor and as a human. We are emotional creatures, and that makes investing a little more difficult.
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