Set your goals and make a plan

Published 4:56 am Friday, December 14, 2012

In financial terms, retirement day might be the single most important day of your life. Few other moments are as painstakingly planned for or as eagerly anticipated. You’ve probably already spent years preparing for the day you’ll retire — saving and strategizing, so that when it finally arrives you’ll be ready to enjoy the fruits of a successful career.

Financial planning is more than just saving for retirement. It’s about having the resources and time to do and enjoy the things you want in life. It’s about knowing where you are, and where you want to go. Granted, the main goal of many financial plans is to amass as much money as possible for retirement. But if you constantly reach for maximum returns, it can come at a great cost to your other financial goals in life: things you want to do or have before you retire.

Achieving your retirement goals involves understanding and planning for other goals along the way so you can achieve your short- and long-term goals but enjoy life as you are living it. The good news is that it is not as complicated as it may seem. With the right strategy, you and your financial advisor can take all the necessary steps to devise a financial plan that not only sets realistic goals, but continuously keeps you on track toward achieving them.

Email newsletter signup

The 6 steps of financial planning

While no two investors are alike, the following six steps are a good guide to initiating and executing most financial plans, including a well-devised goal-based planning and monitoring approach. You and your financial advisor can determine the best approach for your specific situation.

1. Establish financial goals.

2. Gather relevant data.

3. Analyze the data.

4. Develop a plan for achieving goals.

5. Implement the plan.

6. Monitor the plan.

Planning for life

Financial planning is an ongoing process. While some goals, like a comfortable retirement, remain the same, others change throughout the course of our lives. For someone in their 30s, paying for children’s education, financing a home or paying down debt may take priority. Someone in their 50s may have very different goals.

Wherever you are in life, simply identifying your specific goals and prioritizing them in terms of importance and time frame can help make your goals more concrete. Remember, these are not just distant dreams; they are real desires that may be achieved with the right planning.

You and your advisor can analyze these goals and desires and the likelihood of realizing them. More importantly, you will be able to create an action plan for success. Working together, you and your advisor can evaluate your current situation as well as look forward to what you think may happen down the road.

Furthermore, you and your advisor will be able to consistently review your plan’s performance and make adjustments where needed to increase your chances for success, so you can feel confident that your goals are within reach.

As with any financial plan, an important aspect of planning is assessing your tolerance for risk. With short-term goals, you may need to be more conservative with your investments to protect your assets closer to when you need them. For long-term goals, you may be willing to take on more risk to reach for higher returns since you have time to adjust your long-term strategies before you’ll need to begin withdrawing from your account. You and your financial advisor can work together to determine your tolerance for risk and what kind of investments are best for your situation.

Manage, monitor and adjust

Now that you know what you want and how you want to get there, it is time to implement your financial plan. Keeping track of your plan is key to making sure you stick to it. Like life, financial planning is an ongoing process. By keeping a careful eye on your investments, you and your financial advisor can work together to keep your plan on track.

A safe, comfortable retirement is important, but so are your short-term goals. With the right tools, you can actively work toward achieving them and still keep your eye on your long-term financial goals.

This material was prepared by Raymond James for use by its advisors. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.

Stephen P. Poitevint is a Registered Principal and Financial Advisor with the firm of Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC, and is located at 908 Tallahassee Highway, Bainbridge, and can be contacted at (229) 246-7208 or