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4 Life Planning Hacks for Novices
While you can’t plan for every event in your life, you can take stock of your present circumstances, set goals for the future, and then determine the steps that will help you get from point A to point B and beyond. Along the way, you’ll need to account for career changes, children, home ownership, and retirement. Even novices can approach life planning like a pro with a few of our hacks.
1. Understand You Can’t Predict the Future
Life planning is about making goals and determining how to achieve them. People’s goals typically encompass everything from getting a promotion to saving for their kids’ college tuition, to retiring and living out their golden years comfortably. If you make an ironclad life plan, you’re going to be disappointed because you cannot predict the future.
The best life plans are the most flexible life plans. You need to make your initial plan and then reevaluate, revise, and revisit it frequently. Life planning is not about predicting the future or sticking to a plan no matter what happens; life planning is about deciding which way you want to go, designing a strategy to get there, and working to create the opportunities you need to achieve those goals. For some, it may mean starting your own business. For others, it may mean working an extra year or two to have the retirement you truly want.
2. Use the Professionals’ Help
While lawyers, accountants, and financial planners cannot wave their magic wands or gaze into their crystal balls to tell you everything you need to do to make your life plan a reality, they can use their professional expertise to help you make some smart decisions. In most cases, they will tell you to begin saving for retirement, planning for your children’s future, and securing life insurance sooner rather than later.
3. Save for Retirement, No Matter Your Income
Even if you have low income, you should start squirreling away money for retirement. There are tax credits available in certain cases for people who contribute to a 401(k) or an IRA, so it may be worth pinching your pennies a bit to pad your retirement and reap the rewards of tax credits. If you have an employer who matches your retirement contributions, take advantage of tucking away money while you are employed there. One of the best ways to make sure you save for your retirement is to have the money automatically taken out of your paychecks each pay period. You won’t miss the money if you’re not used to having it, and your future self will thank you.
4. Plan for Your Children Now and In the Future
If you have young children, you should be approaching your life plan for them in two ways: first, you should make sure you have planned for a tragedy now, and then you should be looking ahead to their college tuition needs and inheritance. No parent wants to think about his untimely death, but if you have children, you need to have arrangements in place for their care. Meet with a lawyer and draw up a will that specifies your children’s guardian and financial accommodations. Decide if you are going to set up a trust for them. Making sure that your children will be taken care of in your absence is an important part of your life plan.
Then, look ahead at how you will plan for your children in the future. Start saving for their college tuition. Your financial planner can help you determine the best college savings accounts for your needs; it may be a 529 savings plan, a uniform gift to minors/uniform transfers to minors account (UGMA/UTMA), or a Coverdell Education Savings Account (CESA). You also will want to determine how you are going to set up your children’s inheritance. Keep in mind that you can account for their inheritance in your will, or you can begin transferring your estate and property to them prior to your death.
No matter your income or your knowledge on the subject, you should be developing a life plan. By accepting that you cannot predict the future, trusting the professionals’ advice, saving for your retirement, and planning for your children’s futures, you’ll be on your way to meeting your goals.
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