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If your financial dreams mean occasionally thinking about how nice it would be to have certain things, you are missing out.
There’s one easy way to meet your goals: Have a financial plan, whether formal or informal.
Most people have a sticking point, though, when it comes to actually creating one, according to a survey by PNC Investments.
The investment company surveyed its customers in August 2018 to dig into their feelings about creating a financial plan, says Rich Ramassini, a certified financial planner and senior vice president at PNC Investments in Pittsburgh.
The ones who did had two caveats.
They didn’t want to it to take a lot of time. And, they didn’t want to have to share a lot of personal information.
If that seems relatable, you can relax. It doesn’t have to take weeks of your life. It doesn’t have to be that complicated. In fact, Ramassini says, it’s possible the real benefit comes from simply sitting down and doing it.
You can have a conversation with a professional or just sit down with a piece of paper and a pen. It’s the actual planning that brings clarity and understanding, “not the 60-page document that is immediately obsolete,” Ramassini said.
It’s not that different from writing down foreign-language vocabulary on index cards.
The very act of writing helps cement those words in your head.
It’s similar to a budget. You can be as formal and complicated as you like. Pay someone to go over your income and expenses with you and have that person create a detailed budget. Or just use a little notebook to track spending and meet your monthly costs.
You know how to do this
“Nearly everyone has engaged in some kind of financial planning, whether they know it or not,” Ramassini said.
Wedding planning is a good example. “If you want to have a reception, different elements go into that,” he said, and it all goes toward the prime goal of getting married. “As everyone starts coming together, there are competing priorities.”
For some people, flowers are extremely important. For someone else, it might be having a specific DJ or a particular venue.
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“You have to prioritize, you have to make decisions,” Ramassini said. “The vast majority don’t have the money to say ‘yes’ to everything on their list.’
Next, you look at the money you have and decide how to allocate. You may choose less-expensive flowers so you can afford the lakefront hotel.
That’s how financial planning is personalized. “It’s what is most important to you,” Ramassini said. “Laying out your goals and objectives to get some estimate as to what things will cost, and looking at the resources to see how you’ll pay.”
DIY or use a pro
You can do it yourself, armed with all the facts about your finances. The internet offers plenty of free calculators and articles to help you create a financial plan.
“But don’t have a false sense of security because you moved some sliders around on an online calculator,” Ramassini said. A website can’t give you accountability or insight into your specific situation.
“Many firms and banks offer financial planning without charge if you’re a client or customer,” he said. “Planning is not always costly.”
You can go to a professional who charges by the hour or the plan. “What you save or gain could far outweigh what you spend,” Ramassini said. “Decide whether it’s an expense or an investment — it depends on what you do with the information you learn.”
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.