The key to getting the edge on average-Joe finances and struggling with money worries is through gaining first-rate ‘financial literacy’ which reduces any over-dependency on accountants, financial advisors and so on, so that you can get control of and start to manage and direct your own personal finances. A great starting point on this journey is to know about and understand the 5 main financial needs in life as per classic financial planning.
The 5 Main Personal Finance Needs in Life
In classic financial planning there are 5 defined financial needs a typical person will have, oftentimes at pretty predictable time frames.
I find it can be a useful back of a napkin checklist to have the following 5 financial needs listed in front of you and then ask yourself what you could be doing now to ensure you are actively addressing each of these 5 financial needs:
- Savings i.e. the financial need to accumulate a lump sum from surplus income (typically saved from earned income) to meet some financial objective and/or build up a rainy day fund. An example of this would be you saving a down-payment for a home purchase at some stage in the near future. Another example of saving is building up an emergency fund (e.g. setting aside 6 months living expenses). You might also start saving with a view to utilizing these funds for a longer term objective such as building up a rainy day or retirement fund.
- Investments i.e. the financial need to invest a lump sum not required by you for a period of time, so as to earn a better return than standard saving can generate. A common example of this is investing a capital sum into bonds or stocks so as to generate a medium-to-high return. Another example of this need could be where you’ve recently retired and have received a lump sum retirement benefit and want to invest this appropriately. You’d have a financial need to invest this lump sum in the most suitable fashion possible (in a manner keeping with your age, risk profile and financial goals) so as to maximize your capital return and/or generate a future stream of (passive) income.
- Protection i.e. the financial need to provide financially for certain unpredictable events in life, such as ill health or death, causing the total cessation of earned income for you and/or your dependants. An example of this is when you get a mortgage, you will take out a life assurance policy (mortgage protection payment insurance) which would ensure the mortgage is paid off in full were you to die before the end of the mortgage term. In addition to simply buying life policies you can “protect” yourself by building sources of passive and portfolio income.
- Retirement Planning i.e. the financial need to accumulate funds to provide a replacement income (passive income and portfolio income) in retirement as you’re no longer working (either by choice or necessity) and not generating earned income.
- Mortgages i.e. the financial need to borrow a capital sum to fund the purchase of a property, usually an apartment (condo) or house, which will typically be used as your home.
The Typical Timeline of Your Personal Financial Needs
Your financial needs generally change as you get older. A typical timeline of changing financial needs during the course of someone’s life would be as follows:
- Age 20- 30: Savings & Mortgages,
- Age 30-40: Protection & Longer Term Savings
- Age 40-50: Investment & Retirement Planning
- Age 60: Investment
It’s important to note that this is a very general timeline. Personally, I think retirement planning should be looked at much earlier in life. With the exception of the current generation of kids (who actually will live shorter lives than those of us in our 20s, 30s and 40s now due to the growing obesity problem), people are living longer than ever before. However, less and less people are planning for and providing for their longer than ever retirement financial needs. (Why not take a look out our website and other articles on retirement planning to understand you retirement planning needs further.) I’ve heard it is said that people spend 5 times more time planning their holidays than they do their retirement! Sad but unfortunately true!
Becoming Your Own Financial Advisor
The process of personal financial planning is a process you can either undertake yourself or most likely with a financial advisor. The objective of financial planning is to achieve your financial plans and goals through the most efficient management of your available financial resources and proper use of financial products. Unfortunately, most people are not equipped to undertake financial planning themselves and they therefore over-rely on financial advisors and institutions.
A word of warning!! There are only a minority of financial advisors that truly have your best interests at heart (sorry…but it’s true). Many are merely flogging you financial products for commissions and fees. The only financial advice worth taking is paid-for financial advice and advice that is in writing. This is as close to independent financial advice that you are going to get I’m afraid. At least by paying for the service, you know the financial advisor is going to provide a service in return for payment rather than have some financial institution line his pockets with initial and trail commissions on financial products sold to you which may or may not be entirely suitable.
After the recent financial crisis and the expos on the entire financial system, there has never been a more important time to get skilled-up and be your own financial advisor. I’m not saying don’t have a team of financial/tax/legal experts you can turn to for advice. Do! However, I am saying, get empowered and become knowledgeable on the financial requirements you have and the strategies, tools and techniques you will need to achieve them. To become rich and create wealth beyond mere averages requires you, to at least some extent, become your own financial advisor.