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5 Steps to Developing a Financial Plan that Works For Your Life

Many people that I meet know that a savings and spending plan that intentionally, authentically, and proactively manages their money is in their best interest.

Yet, somehow it doesn’t get created and they’re left living a life where they’re still not quite sure where the money is going.

There are several reasons for why people don’t design a plan: 1) they’re not ready yet to change how they’re using their money; 2) they feel as if designing a plan will restrict them (when the opposite is generally true and it frees them to know they’re using their money to support their dreams); and 3) they’re not sure exactly how to design a new plan.

Well, if you happen to fall into the category of “I’m ready to do this and I just need to know how to do it,” today is your lucky day!

Here are 5 steps to developing a new savings and spending plan that works for your life:

  1. Set goals – While most of designing a new spending and savings plan has to do with looking at numbers, this step is a critical first step to take to ensure that any new plan allocates how money is used in a way that aligns with whatever matters to you. The Jones’ next door will have different dreams than you do, so understanding what you’re up to in your life and where you want to go will be an important step to support you in aligning how you use money as a tool in your life. Determine what your short-term (1-3 years), medium-term (3-10 years) and long-term goals (10+ years) are and use these goals as a guideline to mapping your money outflow.
  2. Use financial history – Understanding how you’re using money right now in your life is the next step, and looking at how you’ve used your money for the last 3 months is what I typically recommend. It’s a decent enough timeframe to give you a solid idea of where most of your money is going, and whether there are areas that you’re spending money in that you’d like to focus on reducing your spending in the future.
  3. Develop a new plan – Once you’ve seen where you’ve been spending your money in the past, you can decide whether to continue spending in the same way or if you’d like to redistribute how you’re using your resources. You can review your current bills to see if there’s any way to reduce your expenses, you can look at your debt to determine a strategy to pay it down, and you can intentionally begin to save as well.
  4. Plan weekly cash flow – A new plan is great, and often comes in the format of “Income – Expenses.” And while this is helpful, I often find when working with clients that it’s even more helpful to map out each month how money will be spent on a week-by-week basis. This allows you to be intentional and strategic with how you’re using your income to pay your bills and live your life (i.e. groceries, entertainment, gas, etc.)
  5. Measure, monitor and adjust – Developing a new plan is only the beginning, however, since measuring against your plan and adjusting as necessary is a critical financial routine to have in place. Tracking actual spending against the plan that you designed is important, so that you can either adjust your spending to more closely approximate your original plan or you can adjust your plan to reflect the new spending. Life happens, and things are always changing – having a plan in place that reflects your current reality will result in you building financial health more quickly!

These steps are generally best done in the order noted, and can take some time to complete depending on how dedicated you are to working through them. In the end, however, you’ll have the peace of mind to know where your money is going and that you’re using it to support what you want in your life, and suddenly financial stress goes away and you begin to enjoy life.

So, is it time for you to take the first step to financially fuel the life of your dreams? There’s no better time than the present to get started!!!

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How to Systematically Save Money to Support Your Goals

“There is no need to wait for anyone to give you anything in your life.  You have the power to create what you need.  Given commitment, clear goals, and action, it’s just a matter of time.” – Susan Jeffers

This is one of my favorite quotes because it feels so full of hope (to me anyway) that we can all design our lives intentionally instead of simply accepting what is in front of us.  However, so much of our world is unfortunately full of negativity and thoughts completely contradictory to this quote.

Ironically, I stumbled back across this quote just before I started writing this article and it couldn’t come at a more opportune time in my life than now.  I’ve been struggling with putting a dream of my own back into action (after what we’ll refer to as a “temporary delay of game”), and through a series of steps I’ve taken in the last few days, I have essentially decided that I do indeed have the power to create what I need and want.  And that dream now has my full commitment.

So how does dreaming and goal-setting connect with saving, you might ask?  It’s a great question.  While I do believe that you can create what you need and want in your life, I also believe that there’s something to be said for taking inspired action to support what you want to create.  Otherwise said, if your goal requires financial support, why not work to support your goal as soon as possible?

However, before we get into how to save money to support your goals, I’d like to take a moment to distinguish between a dream and a goal.  A mentor of mine, Alison Armstrong (, once defined the difference between a dream and a goal as follows:  goals are dreams with deadlines.  In other words, dreams are things that you enjoy thinking about and let mull around in your head (think daydreaming and smiling while you’re doing that), whereas a goal is a dream that you actually sit down to plan out and allocate resources toward.  Typically, one of the resources that you may want to allocate toward your goal is money.

If you’re one of the people who haven’t yet sat down to think about your dreams and goals and how to support them and you’re considering doing so right now, I typically advise my clients to walk through a very simple process:

  1. Decide if you have a dream or a goal – This may seem simple based on the definition above, however it actually requires a decision on your part.  Do you have something you’re just thinking about (a dream) or do you have something you’re committed to that has deadlines and needs resources (a goal)?  It’s an important distinction to make so that you’re not trying to allocate resources (i.e. money) toward something you’re not fully committed to just yet.
  2. Determine if financial resources are required and if so, how much – If you’ve decided that you have an actual goal that you’d like to commit yourself to, then it’s time to see if you’ll need money to support accomplishing your goal.  If the answer is “yes,” then take some time to quantify how much money you believe you’ll need to support achieving the goal and in what time frame you’ll need that money.
  3. Calculate a monthly amount, automate, and build it into your financial plan – Steps 1 and 2 are relatively simple in the sense that they require “yes” or “no” answers and an assessment of how much money might be needed to fund a goal (in the event it does require financial resources).  If a goal requires money, it’s important to break it down to smaller goals to begin taking steps toward your goal.  Take the total amount of money you’ll need to support the goal at hand, divide by the number of months that you have until you’ll need the money, and arrive at a monthly amount you want to save.  Once you’ve got that monthly amount, it’s time to kick it up a notch and build it into your financial plan (via a specific and budgeted savings account) and automate (whether by actually setting up an auto-withdrawal or simply scheduling a specific day for you to wire funds to your savings account).

In the end, this may seem like a simple money management process on the outside (and in many ways, it is), but the key hurdle is taking the time to sit down and actually decide which of your dreams are going to absorb your intention and which will become goals that require financial resources.  Like the quote mentioned at the beginning, “given commitment, clear goals, and action, it’s just a matter of time.


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