Financial Planning

Financial planning is the process of assessing financial goals of an individual, taking an inventory of the money and other assets which the person has, determine life goals and then take necessary steps to achieve goals in the stipulated period. It is a method of quantifying a persons requirement in terms of money.

It is the process of meeting life goals through the proper management of finances. Financial planning is a process that a person goes through to find out where they are now (financially), determine where they want to be in the future, and what they are going to do to get there. Financial Planning provides direction and meaning to persons financial decisions. It allows understanding of how each financial decision a person makes, affects the other areas of their finances. For example, buying a particular investment product might help to pay off mortgage faster or it might delay the retirement significantly. By viewing each financial decision as part of the whole, one can consider its short and long- term effects on their life goals. People can also adapt more easily to life changes and feel more secure that their goals are on track.

In simple, Financial Planning is what a person does with their money. Individuals have been practicing financial planning for ages. Every individual who received money had to make a decision about the best way to use it. Typically, the decision was either spend it then or save it to spend later. Everyone had to make the same decision every time they receive money.

Financial Planning is an advisory service provided by the finance industry. Although financial planning is not a new concept, it just needs to be conducted in organized manner. Financial Planner on other hand is a service provider which enables an individual to select proper product mix for achieving their goals.

The major things to be considered in financial planning are time horizon to achieve life goals, identify risk tolerance of client, their liquidity need, the inflation. Keeping all this in mind financial planning is done with six step process. This are self assessment of client, identify personal goals and financial goals and objective, identify financial problems and opportunities, determining recommendations and alternative solutions, implementation of appropriate strategy to achieve goals and review and update plan periodically.

A good financial plan includes Contingency planning, Risk Planning (insurance), Tax Planning, Retirement Planning and Investment and Saving option

Study of various factors
Things to consider while doing financial planning are

Time horizon and goals
It is important to understand what the individuals goals are, and over what time period they want to achieve their goals. Some goals are short term goals, those that people want to achieve within a year. For such goals it is important to be conservative in ones approach and not take too much risk. For long term goals, however, one can afford to take more risk and use time to ones advantage.

Risk tolerance
Every individual should know what their capacity to take risk is. Some investments can be more risky than others. These will not be suitable for someone of a low risk profile, or for goals that require being conservative. Crucially, ones risk profile will change across their lifes stages. As a young person with no dependants or financial liabilities, one might be able to take lots of risk. However, if this young person gets married and has a child, the person will have dependants and higher fiscal responsibilities. So, the persons approach to risk and finances cannot be the same as it was when they were single.

Liquidity needs
How quickly one can access the money, when it is needed. If investment made on an asset needs to sold to procure funds in order meet a goal, then it needs to be understood how easily one can sell the asset. Usually, money market and stock market related assets are easy to liquidate. On the other hand, something like real estate might take a long time to sell.

Inflation is a facet of the economic life in India. The product that is brought today is almost double the price of what it was ten years ago. The purchasing power of money is going down every year. Therefore, the cost of achieving goals needs to be seen in terms of what the inflated price would be in the future.

Need for growth or income
When an individual makes investments he/she needs to think about what is required, whether capital appreciation or income. Not all investments satisfy both requirements. A young person should usually consider investing for capital appreciation, to take advantage of their young age. An older person however might be more interested in generating income for themselves.

Six steps process of financial planning

1. Self assessment

Clarifying present situation, is a preliminary step someone has to complete prior to planning their finance. Doing a self assessment enables a person to understand their present wealth status and responsibilities. Self assessment should contain following

- Prospective retirement age"
- Main source of income - Dependents in family
- Expenses and monthly savings
- Current investment status

One should identify their wealth status prior to moving with financial planning.

2. Identify financial, personal goals and objectives
One should identify their wealth status prior to moving with financial planning. Each individual aspires to lead a better and a happier life. To lead such a life there are some needs and some wishes that need to be fulfilled. Money is a medium through which such needs and wishes are fulfilled. Some of the common needs that most individuals would have are: Creating enough financial resources to lead a comfortable retired life, providing for a childs education and marriage, buying a dream home, providing for medical emergencies, etc.

Once the needs/ objectives have been identified, they need to be converted into financial goals. Two components go into converting the needs into financial goals. First is to evaluate and find out when it is needed to make withdrawals from investments for each of the needs/ objectives. Then person should estimate the amount of money needed in current value to meet the objective/ need today. Then by using a suitable inflation factor one can project what would be the amount of money needed to meet the objective/ need in future. Similarly one need to estimate the amount of money needed to meet all such objectives/ needs. Once a person has all the values they need to plot it against a timeline.

3. Identify financial problems or opportunities
Once goals and current situation are identified, the short fall to achieve the goal can be assessed. This short fall need to be covered over a period of time to fulfill various needs at different life stages. Since future cannot be predict, all the contingencies should be considered will doing financial planning. A good financial plan should hedge from various risks. A flexible approach should be taken to cater to changing needs and we should be ready to reorganize our financial plan from time to time.

4. Determine recommendations and alternative solutions
Review various investment options such as stocks, mutual funds, debt instruments such as PPF, bonds, fixed deposits, gilt funds, etc. and identify which instrument(s) or a combination thereof best suits the need. The time frame for investment must correspond with the time period for goals

5.Implement the appropriate strategies to achieve goals
A person needs to implement the plan into action.Necessary steps needs to be taken to achieve financial goals. This may include gathering necessary documents, open necessary bank, demat, trading account, liaise with brokers and get started. In simple terms, start investing and stick to the plan.

6. Review and update plan periodically
Financial planning is not a one-time activity. A successful plan needs serious commitment and periodical review (once in six months, or at a major event such as birth, death, inheritance). Person should be prepared to make minor or major revisions to their current financial situation, goals and investment time frame based on a review of the performance of investments

Components of financial planning
A good financial plan should include the following things
- Contingency planning - Risk Planning (insurance) - Retirement Planning - Tax Planning - Investments and Savings option One should identify their wealth status prior to move with financial planning.

Contingency planning
Contingency means any unforeseen event which may or may not occur in future. Contingency planning is the basic and the very first step to financial planning. It was found that a large number of people have invested in financial planning instrument but have ignored their contingency planning. There are many possibilities that due to illness, injury or to care of family member a huge amount of money is required. Moreover ,its not assured that the next job will be available at the earliest. These are temporary situation and lasts for a short phase but cannot be ignored.

If person has not planned for contingencies, he will use his long term investment to fund such crises. It is possible that long term investment may not give enough returns if withdrawn early. There is also a possibility of capital erosion. In such a situation ,all the financial plans made are of waste. With long term planning ,person also needs to take care of present situation in order to truly achieve financial goals. It is a thumb rule that one should have three times money of monthly salary in liquid form to support contingency.

Risk planning
Every individual is exposed to certain type of risk whether it is due to loss or damage of personal property, loss of pay due to illness or disability; or even due to death. Such risk cannot be determined but on occurrence there may be a financial loss to the individual or their family. Proper personal financial planning should definitely include insurance. One main area of the role of personal financial planning is to make sure that one has the ability to carry on living in case of some unforeseen and unfortunate event. Basically, insurance provides a safety net to provide the necessary funds when one meets with events like accidents, disabilities or illnesses. One main contribution of insurance is that it helps provides peace of mind, knowing that enough funds are at hand in the event when things do not go the way it should be. This peace of mind leaves one with the energy and confidence to move forward.

Life risk
Every individual is prone to risk of losing life but what is not certain is the time of death. In this sense everyone is prone to life risk, but the degree of risk may vary. In terms of financial planning, covering life risk means insuring the life of the person through proper life insurance plan. It is extremely important that every person, especially the breadwinner, covers the risks to his life, so that his familys quality of life does not undergo any drastic change in case of an unfortunate eventuality. There are various plans offered by insurance companies that can suite various needs of an individual.

Health risk
Lifespan of an Indian is known to have increased nowadays, and senior citizens strive to stay healthy and active as they age. However, as the person gets older, extensive health care is needed. Health insurance is an insurance policy that insures against any medical expenses. Insured medical expenses will be taken care of by the insurance company provided person pays their premium regularly. Cover extends to pre-hospitalisation and post-hospitalisation for periods of 30 days and 60 days respectively. Domiciliary hospitalisation is also covered.

Property coverage
Property Coverage insures personal property from damage, destruction or theft. Dwelling coverage also known as Homeowners Insurance offers protection against direct physical damage caused to the dwelling, including rooms, fireplaces, carpeting, tile floors and elements of decor. Structures, which are attached to the insured dwelling on the same foundation, such as a garage, are also liable to coverage under this section of Homeowners Insurance. Besides, this section of policy covers materials and supplies necessary to rebuild or repair home.

Person Property Coverage can insure the contents of home.

Tax planning
Tax planning is what every income earner does without fail and this is what financial planning is all to them. A good plan is one which takes the maximum advantage of various incentives offered by the income tax laws of the country. Financial planning objective should be getting maximum advantage of various avenues. It is to be remembered that tax planning is a part and not financial planning itself. Primary objective of a good financial plan is to maximize the wealth, not to beat the taxmen.

With the knowledge of the Income Tax (IT) Act one can reduce income tax liability. It also helps to decide, where to invest and to claim deductions under various sections. The income earned is subject to income tax by the government. The rate of income tax is different for different income levels, and thus, the income tax payable depends on the total earnings in a given year.

Retirement planning
A retirement plan is an assurance that a person will continue to earn a satisfying income and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, even when they are no longer working. Due to the improved living conditions and access to better medical facilities, the life expectancy of people is increasing. This has led to a situation where people will be spending approximately the same number of years in retirement as what they have spent in their active working life. Thus it has become imperative to ensure that the golden years of the life are not spent worrying about financial hardships. A proper retirement planning, to a very large extent, will ensure this.

Planning ahead will let us enjoy the retirement that we deserve. The retirement strategies decided upon, makes a fundamental difference to the degree of financial freedom one will experience when they do decide to take their pension. Planning for retirement and choosing a pension strategy to safeguard financial security can be a minefield.

Financial planning tips

It is fine to be optimistic and even ambitious with financial goals, like saving even as low as 20 to 30% of disposable income, but avoid failure by choosing too difficult or near-impossible goals.

Make a plan to achieve these financial goals. A real, concrete plan with measurable parameters such as saving some amount of money in a week or investing some percent of every paycheck in a stock or bond fund is the best idea.

Put this plan down on a paper and refer to it on a regular basis to keep track of the results. Try the plan for at least six months. If the goals are not met (or at least some significant progress) after six months or it is not working for whatever reason, then consider changing it.

Do not take money taken directly out of payroll for investment purposes. Most people will spend cash more readily than making a credit card purchase, so not having cash around helps keep your budgeting and prevents impulse spending.

Consider a financial adviser or a financial planner. They are paid professionals who are trained to analyze individual financial situations and offer advice to help people achieve their financial goals