Financial planning and the DIY investor

19th July 2013

What does your future look like? Are you on track to achieve what you want from life?  Do you know? Do you care? Sue Whitbread, communications director at the Institute of Financial Planning lifts the lid on Financial Planning – and what it really means for you and your family.

Getting the life we want doesn’t happen by accident. We need to plan it, and an integral part of this will be sensible financial planning.  If we fail to plan, then we plan to fail. It’s an old adage but one that still rings true. It’s strange that we Brits put so much time and effort into planning and organising things like our summer holidays, Christmas and even dinner parties, yet we don’t pay the same attention to the most important plans of all – planning for life.

But what does that really mean? Do you have to get professional advice or can you do financial planning yourself?  Qualified Financial Planners such as Certified Financial Planner CM professionals have gone through rigorous education and testing and will have pledged to conduct themselves in an ethical manner that puts your interests first. CFP professionals know how to ask important questions about your goals, steer you away from financial hazards and suggest strategies for reaching your goals that you may not have considered. They’ll also keep you on track if you start to go deviate, shy away from difficult decisions or simply fail to find time and space to dedicate to the task on a regular basis. Whether you get advice or not, the secret of good financial planning is doing regular reviews so you keep up with your ever changing goals as well as ever changing financial position!

The good news is that there are things you can do to get started whether or not you intend to seek professional advice. At the start you’ll have identified all your goals, short, medium and long term, you’ll write them down (either on a spreadsheet or on paper) and  discuss them with your partner( if you have one).  You’ll put timescales on all your goals and add the likely cost of them in money terms. Some goals may not have significant financial implications but most will. These can be quite scary numbers, especially when you see them all together. You’ll ask yourself how on earth are you going to be able to afford to do all these things?

That’s when you’ll prioritise the goals. Work what what really matters most to you and your family, and what doesn’t. Then you can set about doing the maths to work out your budget and how you can organise your finances to accumulate the money you need to do all these things in life you want to. Once you’ve got your plans in place, then it’s time to look at financial products like ISAs, pensions or insurance to help you achieve them. For many DIY investors, this focus on products is where they start the process not where they end. Take a tip from the professionals – start with the end in mind and you’ll not regret it!

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