My definition of family financial planning is meeting your family’s everyday expenses, handling unexpected bills, saving for the future, and having fun! It can put you in control of your money and helps you avoid stress and feel more secure.
I will say, though, it’s not always easy. But there is help! Financial planners like me can help you create a comprehensive financial plan. There is also a multitude of finance apps – from budgeting to savings to investing – that can help too. Here’s the thing: No matter using people or apps, it goes back to your goals and priorities. What do you value? What is important to you? I’m going to give you some things to think about as you take this journey into family financial planning. Consider the bigger picture first, then put some realistic action items in place a re-evaluate in a few months!
Share and communicate. With a partner and kids, having separate finances is fine, but there are probably a million ways to help streamline it. Think about it: you have shared goals for home ownership, kids, travel, and retirement (that is the short list!), so why not share your finances? There are things we can do to keep some accounts and expenses separate – in fact there are good reasons for doing so – but for the basic family plan, combining finances can help strengthen the foundation.
Auto save. We’ve got lots of vehicles available to help us save…retirement plans, savings accounts, IRAs, 529 plans, travel/holiday/charitable giving accounts… Sound familiar? If you are not automatically saving, start! Many of us tend to believe that if we are not saving hundreds of dollars a month, then it’s not worth it. THAT’S NOT TRUE. Anything counts! Start with $5. Here’s a handy calculator to show you have much you could have in six months.
Invest. All you savers out there, find another way to save beyond your emergency fund or pre-tax 401k – maybe a taxable or Roth account? Investing in the stock market can provide a stronger return over the long-term. It comes with a higher level of risk too. You should talk with your planner about risk tolerance and time horizon for an appropriate asset allocation, but the point is, we invest to earn more money over time. So start now.
Prioritize. What’s important to you? Some say family vacations, others say weekend soccer tournaments, and others want four-week summer camps less than two hours away. It can also be all of the above, but make a point to prioritize and spend your resources accordingly. There is not a wrong answer. But if you want strong cash flow and most of the things of your list, you’ve gotta understand what’s most important. There may be tradeoffs, but they might not be where you think.
Create a plan. This is what helps you stay on track! Your plan will help you make the best decisions today for your goals. There are big decisions to make and instead of just thinking about the future, you need to act.
There’s a lot to unpack when you dive into the plan, but families are able to communicate better about finances and will make better decisions after they’ve put it all on the table and set a solid foundation.
Kelly Luethje, CFP®, is Founder of Willow Planning Group, LLC. She provides financial education and guidance to help you live life on your terms. Kelly can usually be found on a mountain or by a lake working virtually with clients across the country across the country.