How to Do Financial Planning for Families

Financial planning for families doesn’t have to be overwhelming.  Whether a family is comprised of young newlyweds looking to create a solid plan for the future, middle-aged income earners eyeing both retirement and college tuition payments for their children, or multiple generations that aim to protect and enhance established wealth, the principles of financial planning remain the same.  There are simple steps you can take to create the best financial future for your family, no matter where your starting point is. 


Depending on your unique family dynamic, you will likely have financial goals that are specific to what you aspire to accomplish.  Do you dream of owning a house while living debt-free and having enough money saved for retirement?  Do you want to quit your job and start your own business while continuing to provide for your family’s current and future financial needs?  Do you want to fund your children’s and grandchildren’s college education?  A family financial plan is a roadmap to get you to where you want to go.  It is a summary of your resources, your debt, your goals for your family’s future and a strategy to use in working toward success. 


It can be helpful to create a family financial planning worksheet and write down your answers to the following:

  • SET GOALS.  You can start by thinking big and brainstorming. As you go on to analyze your available resources, time and the goals you have set, you may find that some of these dreams will need to be adjusted, but for now you can remove all limits.  What does your ideal life look like?  Do you know how much money you will need, and by when, to make it a reality? For instance, if you have young children now, and intend to have enough saved for their college education, there is a specific timeline you will be working with.  Other goals such as purchasing a house or starting a new business can have a more flexible target date.  You may dream of retiring at 50 with enough money to travel the world in style, but as you are developing your family financial plan discover that at age 62 it will be much more possible.   
  • TRACK SPENDING.  Many people have a pretty good idea of what their big bills are.  It’s likely you know approximately how much you spend on housing, car payments and utilities each month.  But, what about the little payments?  The incidentals and the unexpected expenses can add up.  You might be spending a lot more on takeout pizza than you realize.  Or your older car might need frequent servicing that you weren’t really considering as part of your monthly expenses.  Spend a few months where you write down every single expense you have from your standard monthly bills to online shopping splurges, no matter how small.  You may find that you’re spending $25 a month on coffee, but that you really love it, and that’s okay.  Or you might be reminded that you have a monthly subscription to an online streaming service that you rarely use and could easily live without.  The point is to know where every dollar you spend is going so that you can plan accordingly and make adjustments if necessary.
  • CREATE A BUDGET.  Taking into account your need to prepare for your future while providing for your family today, establishing a budget will increase your ability to stack on track to accomplish the goals you’ve created.  Using the information you’ve gathered, you can begin to see what your spending and saving habits are, and in what areas you may need to refocus.  Ideally, your budget will allow you to save and invest, while meeting your current financial obligations and remaining under your income level.  If at first this is not possible, it’s time to revisit your spending habits and eliminate where you can.  You can always update your budget as life changes alter your income or expenses.  
  • KNOW YOUR ASSETS.  Knowing your goals, how long you have to achieve them, and your risk tolerance can help you create a well-balanced investment portfolio.  Stocks, bonds and cash equivalents can all be used to help you increase your wealth over time.  However, short-term savings goals such as buying a new car or a vacation home might be best accomplished with cash or money market accounts, and long-term goals like retirement benefit from investing at least a portion in equities.  When you know the big picture of what you are working toward, learning about all the ways you can save and grow your money will help you to create a plan that takes advantage of the available tools.  Rebalancing your portfolio on an established timetable can help you stay on the right track.
  • KNOW YOUR DEBT.  How much do you have?  How much is it costing you in interest and when will it be paid off?  High interest loans and credit card balances can offset gains you might earn on investment and savings accounts.  If you’re earning 6% interest on an investment account while paying 25% interest on a credit card balance, you’re working against yourself. 
  • PROTECT YOUR FUTURE.  An emergency fund is important.  It’s been stated by the Federal Reserve that 40% of Americans cannot afford an unexpected $400 emergency expense.  By accumulating enough money to cover several months of your household expenses in a savings account, you can help prepare your family to handle an unexpected crisis that might leave you unable to earn income.
  • PURCHASE APPROPRIATE INSURANCE.  By preparing in advance with the purchase of homeowners, renters, car, disability, long-term care, umbrella and life insurance, you can offer your family financial security at a time if/when life’s unexpected moments are taking place.
  • CREATE A LEGACY.  What life lessons do you want to pass to your children and grandchildren?  Are there organizations working on behalf of causes that are close to your heart?  As you are doing your family’s financial planning, remember to consider charitable giving, bequests and how you want to leave your legacy.  Wills and trusts can help to memorialize your wishes and structure future distributions.  Your core values will be reflected in the financial decisions that will become your legacy to your family and the world.
  • CONSIDER WORKING WITH A PROFESSIONAL.  A professional financial planner can assist you in your family financial planning.  They can review your income, expenses, savings, projected budget and the investments you are making.  They can make sure your family is protected with the proper insurance and make recommendations if necessary.  They can help you develop a realistic timeline and a strategy to achieve the milestones you are striving for.  Most importantly, they can use their expertise to make sure your family financial plan is optimized with a structure that has a potential to deliver the greatest results.    

Marriage, parenthood, college, retirement, divorce or death of a family member are all stages of life that can bring changes to your family’s financial planning.  The economy, fluctuations in the stock market and interest rates are also factors out of our control that can greatly impact our finances.  Financial plans are not written in stone and can be updated as necessary by going through the same steps you used in initially creating yours.  By developing a comprehensive plan designed to support your family’s current needs and their future ambitions, you’ll have a much greater chance at experiencing the freedom of financial success while seeing your dreams come to pass.