A major financial decision can be a surefire way to completely paralyze us. Even a small financial decision can be intimidating. So, when we’re faced with a major financial decision, the stress compounds. We’re often stuck feeling, well, stuck – and a little trapped.
Does this sound like you?
If you’re facing a major financial decision, you’re not alone. You’re going to face many of these big decisions throughout your life. It’s part of growing both personally and professionally and as you grow, the financial decisions you have to make will likely become more complicated and overwhelming.
Luckily, you can take some of the stress out of these scenarios by running through a list of questions before making a call one way or another. Although this practice won’t completely get rid of the stress you’re feeling, it should make the decision process much more manageable for you and your spouse or partner.
What Qualifies as a “Major” Financial Decision?
First let’s talk about what qualifies as a “major” financial decision. Some money decisions are easy to get hung up on, but don’t have that big of an impact on our lives. To help you eliminate some decision fatigue, set some “money rules” up for you and your spouse or partner. These can include:
How much budgeted, discretionary money you can spend without feeling guilty or checking in with anyone
What your budget is each month
What goals you’re working toward
What general spending guidelines you want to stick to (ex: you want to spend money on experiences, not things, whenever possible)
With these smaller money rules in place, you’ll be able to get through the day-to-day without stressing out too much over financial decisions. However, that doesn’t mean that major decisions won’t come up!
These might be decisions about buying a home or relocating, changing jobs or career paths, whether you want to purchase a new car, what college your kids can afford to attend (and how much you’ll financially support them) – just to name a few. Major financial decisions will have an impact on your immediate future, but they’ll also have a big impact on your long-term goals and the vision you have for your life.
With that being said, let’s dive into what questions you can ask yourself before making a major financial decision.
Is This Financial Decision Within My Means?
Making a major financial decision out of left field usually isn’t a good idea. In other words, don’t quit your job, buy a new house, lease a new car, or move across the country without thinking about it (and budgeting for it) first. Even after you’ve budgeted for life’s major financial decisions, it’s still worth weighing the pros and cons. Your first step should always be to check yourself: Is this decision actually within my means? Or do I want this because it’ll provide instant gratification?
How Will This Financial Decision Impact My Immediate Future?
You make plenty of money decisions every day that impact your immediate future. Buying dinner out with friends might mean one less date night next week. Sending your kids to summer camp might mean that you skip our annual family vacation to the beach before they go back to school. Everything comes with a tradeoff, but major financial decisions will have a bigger impact on your immediate financial future.
For example, if you’re thinking about buying a house, how will that impact your immediate future? Your down payment may lower your total savings, which could be a problem if you haven’t saved enough to cover both your down payment and potential emergencies (like broken water pipes, or having your kids break their arm climbing the tree in your new backyard). Make sure you know what your immediate future will look like if you make this decision, and that you aren’t jeopardizing you or your family’s security as a result.
How Will This Financial Decision Impact My Long-Term Future?
Our small money decisions don’t make or break our long-term. Grabbing a salad for lunch that’s within your budget at a local deli isn’t going to completely derail your debt repayment strategy. Major financial decisions, on the other hand, will. If you choose to start your own business and leave your cushy-but-demoralizing 9-5 job, you’re giving up a lot of financial security in the short-term.
But you could be tapping into a more unlimited stream of income and growth opportunities that lead to more financial growth in the future. Have a very clear idea about how this choice impacts your long-term, regardless of which way you decide to go.
Why Do I Feel Motivated (Or Unmotivated) To Make This Decision?
Knowing the “why” behind your motivations can help you to gain clarity around whether or not this decision is best for you and your family. For example, let’s say you recently applied for (and landed!) a cool new job in your hometown. After living away for years, you’re ready to live near family again as you and your spouse are thinking about having kids and buying a home. Before you take that job, be honest with yourself: Is this opportunity really better than your current situation? Or are you motivated because you’re feeling desperate to move home? The job might actually be an awesome opportunity, in which case, go for it! But if you think you can find another, better opportunity for you and your career, consider continuing to apply and interview for a few more months. Don’t be afraid to take your time.
On the other side of the coin, you may be feeling unmotivated to make a major financial decision. Maybe you don’t want to downsize now that the kids have moved to college, even though there are a lot of cute housing options for you and your spouse in your area, and there are some concrete financial benefits. Are you unmotivated to downsize because moving doesn’t make financial sense? Or is it because you feel attached to the house your kids grew up in?
Remember – there’s no wrong answer! Whether you’re motivated or not, don’t shame yourself for how you feel. Just acknowledge those feelings as you make your decision, and understand how they’re impacting you.
Who Else Will This Decision Impact?
You don’t live in a vacuum. The major financial decisions you make will impact you, but they’ll also impact your partner or spouse, kids, family, friends, coworkers – and more. It can be helpful to think through who your decision will impact, and who needs to be part of a “stakeholders” conversation about your choice. We rarely think of the people in our lives as stakeholders – but that’s who they are! Deciding ahead of time who matters to you when making a financial decision, and bringing them into the conversation, can help to get you out of your own head.
Just remember, not everyone that the decision will impact needs to have a say. If you’re miserable at work, talking to a coworker who you like, but who wants you to stay put to make their own lives easier, is not a stakeholder in your decision. Likewise, your mom, who wants you to leave your miserable job to move your family closer to her, is also not a stakeholder. Both of these people have a vested interest in your choice, but they’re not on your VIP stakeholders list. Your spouse and kids, on the other hand, who may have to relocate or adjust to your new schedule, can be considered stakeholders.
Will This Decision Move Me Toward the Life I Want?
This is the biggest question to ask yourself before making a major financial decision. Think about the life you want for yourself, and for your family. Is this moving you toward that life? Or away from it? Even if a decision seems like it will help in the short term, it may not be a good long-term fit according to your lifestyle goals or values. Don’t be afraid to walk away from new, shiny opportunities if they won’t move the needle toward what you’re working for.
Need some help? Having an impartial third-party walk you through the consequences (good and bad!) of your decision before you take the leap can be a game changer. As a fee-only financial planner, a big part of my job is to act as a sounding board and an objective truth-speaker to help people make empowered decisions about their lives. Want to know more? Let’s talk about how teaming up with a financial planner can help you to start making confident major financial decisions.
Episode 87: Women Should Be Financially Involved with Laura Mattia
This week I sat down with author and fellow Certified Financial Planner, Laura Mattia to talk about the importance of financial literacy for women.
Laura Mattia, Ph.D., MBA, CFP, CDFA, is the author of Gender On Wall Street: Uncovering Opportunities for Women in Financial Services. With over 30 years of financial leadership experience, Laura has hired, mentored and trained hundreds of female financial professionals. Currently she is developing the new Personal Financial Planning degree at University of South Florida with a focus on gender and diversity.
HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM THIS EPISODE:
The driving force behind a woman’s financial literacy
Why both people in a relationship need to have an understanding of finances
Who’s ultimate responsibility it is to manage finances
How having common financials goals can impact your marriage
What the fifth wave of women’s movement looks like
Where women need to get involved when it comes to money
Why financial empowerment is so impactful
Steps to take to let go of the “Bag Lady Syndrome”
Laura’s path into the financial planning arena and resources that helped her
Organizations you may find helpful as a financial planner
The stark differences between men and women‘s financial education
Episode 85: Finding the Right Financial Advisor for You with Anjali Jariwala
This week I sat down with fellow financial planner and CPA, Anjali Jariwala to discuss how to figure out how to find the right financial advisor for you.
Anjali Jariwala CPA, CFP® founded FIT Advisors to save her clients time and help guide them to better financial decisions. As a mom, business owner and wife of a physician, she understands the opportunities as well as challenges that young professionals face. Whether you’re running a medical practice, looking at your first job or navigating money conversations in a new marriage – she knows your home life and financial future is not the average juggling act. Anjali believes in a more hands-on advising approach – we pull all the pieces together to provide you with peace of mind.
HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM THIS EPISODE:
Questions that come up around hiring a financial planner
Barriers people put up for not hiring a financial planner
How to address the emotional side of money
How a financial planner can provide a safe space to talk about your money
Important items to look for when searching for a financial planner
Fiduciary explained and why your financial advisor should be in this category
Fee-only versus fee-based financial planners
A few things to consider when finding the right fit for your financial planner
How comfort and the ability to relate can be crucial for picking your financial planner
Why your financial planner shouldn’t be afraid to have the tough conversations with you
Why you may not get the sample plan you ask for when interviewing a financial planner
The questions you SHOULD be asking instead
The peace of mind a financial planner can bring to your life
The fees discussed and the value that you get
Why fees will be different when comparing financial planners
Different options to pay your financial planner to make it work best for you
The challenges and pitfalls you might run into down the “do it yourself” route
GET SOCIAL WITH ANJALI AND LET HER KNOW YOU HEARD ABOUT HER HERE
I’ve been a financial planner for many years, and out of all the questions I receive, this is one of the most common:
When do I need a financial planner?
I love this question, because the truth is that there are so many reasons you may need a financial planner! Typically, people reach out to speak with me (or any fee-only planner, for that matter) because they’ve hit a “big moment” in their life.
It might be that they’re planning for their first baby, or it could be that they’re navigating how to care for an aging parent. However, there are other times that people reach out because they’re just feeling unsure about their money in general, and are looking for a sense of confidence and clarity that comes with working with a professional.
In my 15 years of experience, I’ve found that, while everyone could benefit from working with a financial planner in some capacity, there are typically 9 pretty clear signs that it’s time for you to schedule a consultation.
#1: You’ve Received a Windfall
Have you recently inherited a large sum of money? How about a piece of property, or the family home? Inheritance is such a tricky thing, because there are so many emotions attached to inheriting money from a beloved family member who passed away. It can be tough to know what to do with your sudden wealth. Then there’s the added pressure of wanting to be a good financial steward with the money you’ve inherited – because you want to “do right” by your loved one who made you their benefactor.
Receiving a windfall is a surefire sign that you should speak with a fee-only financial planner. They can help you walk through any tax ramifications you face based on the type of wealth you’ve inherited. They can also help you to create a strategy for your newfound wealth that carries on your loved one’s legacy, while still caring for your financial needs.
#2: You’re Going Through a Big Transition
Having a baby? Gearing up for retirement? Buying a home? Big life transitions are often a sign that you should speak with a financial planner. The bigger the transition, the more true this is! A financial planner can help you to prioritize your financial goals, especially as they adjust during a transitional season of your life.
#3: You Got a Promotion or Pay Raise – Congrats!
Promotions, or even a standard pay raise, might mean a few things for you and your family:
1. You have more cash flow. 2. Your tax bracket may have changed. 3. You may be afforded different benefits, or compensation options (if you’ve been promoted).
Promotions, in particular, can be challenging to go through alone because there are so many different moving parts. You may be excited about the increased pay and responsibility, but feel unsure about next best steps to maximize your wealth. A financial planner can help you navigate your new financial situation, set goals, and take advantage of any new benefits or compensation options you’ve received.
#4: There Aren’t Enough Hours in Your Day
I’ve spoken with many people over the years who love DIY-ing their financial planning, and have been relatively successful. They’ve put together a simple strategy, have paid down debt, built savings, and are generally doing all of the right things. Then, life happens.
They have kids, get promoted at work, launch their own business – and their schedules get busier! When there aren’t enough hours in the day to work on your finances, that’s sometimes all the sign you need to contact a financial planner. They’ll be able to help you free up time in your schedule, craft a unique plan based on your goals and values, and give you the peace of mind you need to keep living your big, exciting life without worrying about your money.
#5: You’re Struggling to Stick to a Strategy
Have you bounced between multiple debt repayment strategies recently? Struggling to stick to your budget or savings plan? Sometimes, when we’re stuck creating a financial plan on our own, we put blinders on. We don’t see the flaws in our strategy, and can’t figure out why we keep falling down over and over again.
Enter: your financial planner! In many cases, your financial planner acts as your accountability partner and coach. They can help you figure out what’s not working about your current strategy, and check in regularly to make sure you stick to your plan moving forward. The accountability-factor is one of the biggest reasons even financial planners have a planner of our own, too. Going it alone is tough work!
#6: You Own Your Own Business
If you’re a business owner, you deal with a lot of financial concerns that traditional W-2 employees don’t have. From putting together a succession plan, to preparing your business to sell, to hiring employees, to planning for your retirement as someone who’s self-employed – you’ve got a lot on your plate.
Having a financial planner who can help you to balance both your personal financial concerns with your professional goals can be a huge help. Some financial planners even act in a “Chief Financial Officer” capacity for their small-business-owner clients.
#7: You’re Unsure About Investing
Investing can feel really intimidating when you’re just getting started. There’s a temptation to commit to an easy, one-size-fits-all solution (like a target date fund) in your workplace 401(k) and then call it a day. But there’s a whole wide world of investing strategy out there that goes beyond your workplace retirement plan, or a cookie-cutter investing solution.
Your financial planner helps you to create a solution that’s unique to your goals. They can walk you through the specifics of rebalancing your portfolio periodically, creating a diversified investment approach, and setting yourself up for long-term success.
A good fee-only financial planner will walk with you through market downturns, and be a sounding board when you’re considering big investment decisions. Their training and experience can help to inform your decisions, and bring an extra layer of confidence to your investing strategy.
#8: You’re Overpaying for Insurance – But Aren’t Sure What to Do About It
A disproportionate percentage of Americans are overpaying for insurance across the board. From auto insurance to homeowners insurance, it’s easy to get sold on the “best” insurance package, even if it means you’re overpaying.
It’s tough to know exactly what coverage is best for you and your family, and many people end up overpaying because they’re afraid of underpaying or not having enough coverage when it counts. Your financial planner can help you estimate what insurance needs you have, and what type of provider can get you the coverage you need – for the best value.
#9: You Want to Feel More Confident About Your Money
Sometimes the biggest sign you need a financial planner is that you don’t feel confident about your money. 30% of Americans are stressed out about money constantly. When I talk to people who are wondering whether they need a financial planner, this is easily the #1 thing they tell me about.
Even if they know that they’re successfully building their wealth and that they’re checking all of the boxes on their financial to-do list, they’re still worried that they’re missing something, or that they’re not doing enough.
Nobody should have to go through life feeling constantly worried about their money. Having a financial planner in your corner can help you feel confident that you’ve checked every box, and that you’re on track to reach your goals.
Additionally, working with a planner who helps you line up your financial plan with your values can totally change your outlook on your wealth. Instead of viewing money as something that controls your life, you’ll start to see it as a tool that can be leveraged to live the life you want to live.
Ready to Get Started?
If you’ve been wondering whether or not you need a financial planner, it can help to talk through your questions and concerns with a fee-only planner. Contact me today. I’m happy to point you in the right direction, or to help you determine whether or not it’s the right time for you to partner up with a planner to start working your wealth.
In your 20s, 30s, or 40s? The days when you’ll no longer need to work are decades into the future.
You’re likely busier worrying about your current financial goals, like traveling, buying a home, starting a family, or launching a business than you are about some far-off, distant time when you’ll kick back and enjoy your golden years.
And because that time is pretty far into the future, it’s really tough to figure out how much money you’ll need one day.
It’s tough to envision what retirement will look like or how much it will cost. No wonder it’s also tough to find the motivation to save for it!
Here are a few ways to figure out how much money you’ll need in retirement — and how to save toward that goal each month.
Think About What You Want
What comes to mind when you think about retirement? Is that vision something you actually want in your life, or are you using society’s definition to imagine what your retirement is going to look like?
The first thing you need to do in order to know how much money you’ll need in retirement is to understand what that actually means to you — what do you want your retirement to look like? What do you want to do, and where do you want to go?
The kind of lifestyle you want will have a big impact on the amount of money you need. Consider some of these variables and choices that could affect your financial needs:
Maintaining a large family home or downsizing to a low-maintenance condo
Traveling domestically versus internationally — or taking frequent trips versus spending time at home
Continuing to find ways to earn income from part-time work, small gigs, freelance or business activities versus relying solely on your savings for the money you need
For some people, the idea of quitting all work entirely sounds awful. You may continue to work and earn some amount of money, which means you could get away with a smaller nest egg.
Others want retirement to be full of luxury travel and completely work free. There’s nothing wrong with that — but it means having more money in the bank to finance that kind of retirement lifestyle.
Imagine Your Retirement Budget
Once you understand what kind of life you might want to lead in retirement, you can estimate some of your expenses. Create a mock budget that includes the costs you know you’ll need to take care of — from living expenses to discretionary spending like travel and treating the grandkids.
No, this budget won’t be complete, perfect, or 100% accurate. But it will give you an idea of how much retirement will cost you on a monthly basis.
Here’s a quick example:
Other Living Expenses (Utilities, Cell Phone, Internet, Transportation, etc): $1,000
Hobbies and Activities: $250
Cash Savings: $200
If this is your budget, you could plan to spend an average of $5,000 per month, or $60,000 per year. Assuming you retire at 63 and live until 90, you need to plan for 27 years of these expenses — which means you’d need $1,620,000 in retirement.
Of course, this doesn’t take inflation into account or a number of other factors that could drive that number up or down. But it does get you in the ballpark.
Use Rules of Thumb
If you’re just not sure what you want in retirement, you could use a common rule of thumb to understand how much money you’ll need instead.
Here are some popular ones:
Multiply by 25: Start with how much money you’d like to have each year in retirement, then multiply that number by 25. That’s how much you’ll need in total. So if you want to have $75,000 per year, you’ll need $1,875,000 saved for retirement.
4% Rule: This allows you to work backward to determine how much you can spend in retirement. It assumes you can reasonably withdraw 4% of your wealth per year in retirement. So if you’re on track to have $1,500,000 saved by the time you retire, you could spend $60,000 per year (1,500,000 x 0.04).
12 Times Your Salary: For a very quick estimation, assume you need 12 times your ending salary to retire. So if you made $120,000 per year before you retired, you’d want to make sure you had $1,444,000 in the bank before you officially called it quits. (The problem here, of course, is that you may have no idea what you’ll make in the years before you retire.)
Many advisors use financial planning software to make projections based on a huge number of factors — and can take inflation and other issues into account, too.
The number they give you will still be an estimate, but it may be more accurate than the numbers you come up with on your own. Plus, your planner will help you, well, plan!
An advisor can break down that big chunk of wealth into manageable, achievable pieces and show you how to save a little bit each month — and where to put it — to grow your nest egg so you can enjoy the retirement you want.