Financial independence and security matters. But for many women on the journey of managing career and family, this can be a sensitive topic, and a cause of stress. Taking time out of the workplace comes at a cost, as does taking a step back, reduced hours and missed promotions. And the cost of raising children continues to grow.
It can be the hardest time to think about financial planning. But in reality, it’s also an important time to get a handle on our finances.
Here Charlene Overell of G3 Financial Freedom shares with us what we need to know to get our ducks in a row financially.
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I heard the saying many years ago that a ‘man is not a financial plan’. Ignoring any aspect of our financial lives and thinking we’ll get around to sorting it out one day when we have more money, more time, or the kids leave home, won’t ‘cut it’ either – it could be too late by then! Starting at some point however, is better than never.
So, how do we get our ‘ducks in row’ to start on the right path to good quality financial planning and then stay on track?
From a financial perspective, it’s important to understand some basics and set up some structures early on. When we view financial planning, we view it as triangle (right), where Estate and Insurance Planning (Risk) are the foundations for a secure financial future; we then build from there.
Understanding each component of this triangle can help us to get organised, and understand what good financial planning looks like.
- Estate Planning. This is about protecting our assets and loved ones in the event of us prematurely dying or being unable to look after ourselves through injury or illness. Having an up-to-date Will, including appointing guardians for our children is just good basic planning. Establishing Enduring Powers of Attorney are vital too – appointing people we trust to make decisions on our behalf when we are unable to do so. For example, in the event of an injury and us not being able to make decisions for ourselves about medical treatment, or being able to sign paperwork relating to our assets and property. In some cases it may be best for a Trust to protect our personal assets for ourselves and our family – seeking expert legal advice can help navigate this option.
- Insurance Planning (also known as Risk Management). We hear many people say they don’t like paying for insurance and would prefer to self-insure. Unfortunately, most of us cannot afford to pay out thousands of dollars to repair a home that has been damaged by fire or earthquake, or replace a car that has been written off from an accident. Likewise, we need to insure ourselves against death and disability, as our ability to earn an income over our lifetime adds up to millions of dollars. How would you and your family cope financially if you suffered an illness or injury and could never work again? How would you save for your future retirement? How would your business keep running without you? Insurance enables us to pay a little and receive a lot. We need to ‘get over ourselves’ that insurance is not appropriate for us and lose the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. Relying on ACC is not a good plan either – it currently only supports us if we have an injury, not an illness. Having the right money, paid out at the right time and to the right hands, is good foundation planning.
- Cash Flow management. This is the engine room of our lives. Understanding our budgets, both within our business and our personal lives, is the key to good money management. We all know that spending more than we earn is not good for our long term financial health, so setting ourselves up with a budget plan for our home finances, and a cashflow forecast for our business, just makes good sense. Monitoring, reviewing and keeping on track is then the key.
Tips: Download bank accounts to excel spreadsheets and set up categories of what we are spending, or, as my mother used to do, keep a little notebook of EVERYTHING we spend so we know what we spend on discretionary items, as well as our fixed bills and groceries. Being smart with how we shop is a discipline and habit we need to master. Look for bargains at the supermarkets and don’t buy from expensive shops is common sense and saves money. Don’t buy on impulse – have a goal that stimulates us to save rather than spend is a positive way to keep track of our money.
- Debt Planning. It is important that you keep track of your debt as there is ‘smart’ debt and ‘dumb’ debt. ‘Dumb’ debt isn’t meant to sound derogatory – it just means debt on assets that depreciate in value, rather than appreciate. Taking out credit card debt to pay for holidays and cars doesn’t increase your overall wealth and the interest rates are exorbitant. Understanding the concept of ‘compound interest’, which some say is the 8th wonder of the world, is great when the accumulating interest increases your wealth, however, it’s really bad when it compounds the amount you actually owe. Mortgage debt is okay, as it is on property that over the long term may increase in value as an appreciating asset.
Tips: Keep track of the interest rates – use fixed rates instead of floating (or a combination of both), and engage a mortgage adviser to help sort out how best to structure loans. When possible, overpaying with surplus lump sums or regular monthly amounts reduces the overall amount repaid. There are various calculators on bank websites and sorted.co.nz that can help work out payments. Also take a look at www.interest.co.nz for the loan rates being offered, and negotiate with your lender.
- Goal Planning. Having goals linked to our values and what we want to achieve in our personal lives is as important, if not more so, than our business goals. Goals may be things like when we want to be debt free, when and where we would like to travel, how we would like to support our children’s education, what we would like to do when we stop working, what philanthropic plans we have, and finally, what legacy we would like to leave. Getting expert advice on solutions and strategies to help achieve these goals helps us to stay on track and enjoy life along the way. The costs of paying for these services are very little compared to the value they can add over our lifetime.
- Investment planning. This is about using various types of investments over the course of our lives to build wealth, so that at some point in our future, we can draw a passive income when we choose to give up work or reduce our hours. Investing in shares, bonds, property and cash are types of investments we can make as we create surplus income during our life, or if we have ad-hoc lump sums we can invest. There are various vehicles we can use, such as managed investment funds, KiwiSaver, direct rental properties and share portfolios to name a few. For cash savings rates on money in the bank, check out interest.co.nz for what the banks are offering and the rates you can obtain for term deposit funds. Getting expert advice to ensure the right investments are established at the right time, for the right reasons, all aligned to your long term goals, is very wise.
Emergency funds – To ensure we have a financial buffer for those ‘curve balls’ in life, as soon as we can it’s wise to start working towards building an emergency pot of money in the bank, equivalent to around 3-6 months personal expenditure. This helps with excesses on insurance claims, loss of income when off work and just those unexpected costs that come about.
You may have already read about understanding your personal goals and drivers in life, or the importance of defining these for yourself. Your business needs to be an extension of these, as your business is there to be a profitable entity, to help you create the personal lifestyle you want, whilst also staying true to your values. Therefore, keeping your values and objectives in mind during your financial planning is crucial for a happy life and business.
In summary, building our financial lives is like building a home, get the foundations strong and secure first, be smart with how we spend our money and try to create surplus income through earning more or spending less. Create goals that will motivate us to make good financial choices and then invest wisely to help us achieve the outcomes we want for a successful and happy lifestyle. This is comprehensive financial planning where all areas dovetail in with the other to give us the best outcomes for what we want.
Do not be afraid to invest time and money with experts to help you along the way. They will support and mentor, as well as provide accountability, and an expert and impartial view of how you can achieve the life you want, now and in the future.
G3 Financial Freedom Limited
Charlene Overell is owner and director at G3 Financial Freedom. She is a Certified Financial Planner (CFPCM) and Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) who is passionate about using her skills and expertise to help others to be the best they can be.