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Building your financial planning model

Building your financial planning model
MARTIN UPTON: Financial planning is a process. It goes through different stages. In this course, you’ll look at one way of describing the staged financial process. It is a model, or to put it another way, a simplification designed to help clarify a more complex process. Stage one, assess the situation. This involves clarifying and prioritising goals, working out constraints and resources, finding out relevant information, and perhaps seeking out well-informed advice.
Stage two, decide on a financial plan. This entails working out possible actions to take or changes to make, such as deciding on which type of financial product or service might be required to achieve a particular goal, or to set a budget, to adjust income and/or expenditure. Stage three, act on the financial plan. This means acting on what has been decided. For example, making the planned changes to income and/or expenditure, shopping around and selecting which financial product is the best buy, given needs and constraints, such as a specific savings account or a specific insurance policy. Stage four, review the plan. This involves regularly reviewing the outcome of the action and taking into account recent changes or events.
Is your financial plan still the best option? Does further advice need to be sought? Perhaps moving into a new cycle of financial planning is necessary. The financial planning model shows each stage in the planning process and how each one assessing, deciding, acting, reviewing, leads into the next stage. Planning is a continuous process over time, with one complete sequence through the four stages leading naturally into another such sequence. This demonstrates that financial planning is not a one-off matter, but an ongoing process over time. Financial plans need to respond and think ahead to the different stages in a person’s life course, and also to take into account possible future events.
You’ve seen how goals need to be clarified and prioritised, this is part of stage one. You’ve also seen in stage two, how deciding on a financial plan aims to fulfil the goals, given the constraints. Stage three entails acting on the financial plan. There’s little point in devising brilliant financial plans if they’re not actually acted upon. This stage might involve shopping around for best buys of specific financial products. Stage four is the important one of reviewing the outcome and checking progress in the light of changing circumstances. This, in turn, may lead to another round of financial planning. There may well be some to-ing and fro-ing between the stages.
Financial plans are worked out on the basis of existing goals, but some goals may have to be revised in view of the financial plans that they turn out to require. Someone might have the goal of climbing Everest, but then they learn that the financial plan required to do so is too demanding, and so the goal is revised. Alternatively perhaps, a financial plan has to be revised when more information is acquired about the actual financial products available. In reality, the lines dividing the separate stages of the financial planning process may be blurred. But notwithstanding this, these stages are the four golden rules of effective personal financial management.

Martin introduces you to the financial planning model – a process with which you’ll become very familiar as you progress through the course and develop your financial capability.

Financial capability involves being able to work out a financial plan for achieving a goal, given the constraints that you face. Constraints include things like income and existing savings, personal circumstances such as having to care for children or elderly relatives, and emotional factors such as how you feel about taking risks. For example, if your goal is to reduce debt worries, then financial capability involves better debt management. If you decide to consolidate debts into one package and then pay them all off systematically, some of these packages cost less than others (other things being equal). If there are debt problems, it’s better to seek advice from professional bodies like the government’s Money Advice Service (MAS), or from Citizens Advice or StepChange, rather than going to a ‘loan shark’ who charges extremely high rates of interest. Alternatively, if you’re saving to buy a flat, some savings schemes offer a better return than others (other things being equal), and all of them are likely to be better than stuffing cash under the proverbial mattress.

Seeking out well-informed advice and choosing better products, given constraints and goals, would be evidence of greater financial capability.

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Finance Fundamentals: Financial Planning and Budgeting

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