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Personal financial planning is something that everyone should incorporate into their lives. “Planning” is the operative word in the term “financial planning.” Without “planning” built into your financial landscape, you will retire without a nest egg (if you can retire at all!), have a wedding with far less fanfare and money than you hoped, bring children into the world without a “plan” (a four-letter word to some) to pay for college and live hand-to-mouth throughout life.

It is not a pretty existence, nor is it one that people typically enjoy. Add that one word, planning, along with the corresponding activity, and you have a life free from many of the hassles and headaches associated with life void of a plan.

Regardless of what age you are, it’s never too late to plan. Admittedly, it’s better to start young, but don’t discount yourself if you are in your twilight years. Set up a plan to carry out your plan. Start a financial diary where you monitor your progress along the way to ensure your financial planning becomes a habit. This will reveal when you’ve achieved your milestones, so you can celebrate, but also show you where you have struggles. Some have described this as a life saver.

To begin, purchase a journal to document your financial planning journey. Keep in mind that you are much more likely to act on a goal when you physically write it down. Also, to have a point of reference, date every entry you make in your journal.

On your journal’s first page write [your name] Life Goals. On the next page or two begin with writing down life goals on each line of the page. Include activities like buying a new car, buying a home, getting a specific type of dog, marriage, establishing a budget, if you don’t already have one, and any other goals that are relevant to your life. Don’t put more than one life goal on each line. Don’t give it much thought, at first. Just jot down each one as it comes to mind.

Now, you’re going to review the life goals you just jotted down, and put them in chronological order on a new page in your journal. Date it at the top. This time, you want to put a lot of thought into the timeline you want these goals achieved. On a fresh page, arrange your life goals in a chronological order that makes the most sense. Again, put only one life goal on each line.

Next, you need to determine how much money you will spend on each. This will give you a basis for planning each event in your life. Add the cost beside each of the corresponding life goals. Primary to all financial planning is a written budget. You have to have a detailed portrait of your finances to understand how to effectively plan for life events.

In your financial journal, place a new entry that identifies all your expenses in one section and all your income in another. Subtract your expenses from your income. What is left is what you have to work with for savings. Determine when you want to have the cash to pay for your next big purchase and plan the savings accordingly.

If you want to have a down payment for a car in one year, determine how much you need to save in that one year, divide that amount by your number of paychecks, then begin to save that amount for the next year. Document your journey in your journal as to how the process is working for you. Do this for each and every purchase you anticipate in life, and you’ll find that you are far less stressed than you ever would have believed possible.

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