The Ultimate Financial Planning Checklist

Creating an annual financial plan might require a lot of research and time, but it is crucial to your financial health. A financial plan helps you scope out your short-term and long-term financial future so that nothing catches you by surprise. By keeping track of your economic progress, you can identify which tasks need to be completed and when. Are you unsure of where to begin your financial planning? Check out this detailed and effective financial planning checklist.

What Is a Financial Planning Checklist?

A financial planning list is an itemized document that helps you determine your financial status at a particular moment. It allows you to take into account all your assets, liabilities, investments, and future income goals so you know exactly what you need to accomplish and when you should do it.

Tip: Always create your financial plan at the beginning of the year so that you have time to accomplish your goals.

The Financial Planning Checklist

Creating a written financial planning checklist will ensure you do not forget about an important task you should complete or a financial aspect you should be monitoring. Here is the ultimate checklist for you:

Personal Financial Inventory

Taking a personal financial inventory allows you to view your current bottom line. Start by conducting a self-check that includes the following:

  • Your credit score and credit report
  • Your credit utilization ratio, or your debt amount versus your credit limit
  • Note: You must use your total credit limit, i.e., from all your credit cards, to calculate your credit utilization ratio.
  • All your debts, including personal loans, credit cards, car loans, and mortgages.
  • All your assets, including your savings and investments accounts, retirement accounts, emergency fund, and real estate equity.

Financial Goals

Next, set some financial goals for the next, say, one year. Divide these goals into short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. Common short-term goals include:

  • Paying off credit cards
  • Creating or boosting your emergency fund
  • Establishing a budget

Some mid-term goals to consider include:

  • Considering your dreams, e.g., moving or buying a new home
  • Acquiring life insurance
  • Some long-term goals you might add include:
  • Determining how to increase your retirement savings
  • Determining the ideal amount to save for your retirement.

Retirement Savings

You should begin to think about and plan for your retirement as soon as possible. In this segment of your Financial Planning Checklist, you should:

  • Decrease or increase your retirement contributions
  • Request an update on SEP IRS limits (if you are self-employed) and maximize your current contribution amounts.
  • Roll over old 401(k) accounts from previous employers
  • Determine whether a traditional IRA or Roth is ideal for you at the moment.

Family

If you are married, you should complete this section with your spouse or after having a discussion with them. Consider the following:

  • The amount you need to save for your children’s future college expenses – if you have children.

Note: You can still calculate future college expenses even if you do not have children at the moment but plan to get them soon.

  • Getting life insurance for you and your spouse.
  • Whether you should get life insurance or long-term care insurance for your elderly parents.
  • How the both of you will time your retirement.

Portfolio

It is crucial to rebalance your portfolio from time to time to ensure you don’t waste your investment on poorly performing securities or carrying excess risk. This step also ensures you remain in line with your investment strategy and adjust your approach in response to market shifts. In this category, you will want to:

  • Identify the asset classes in your current portfolio and possible gaps.
  • Determine how to fill these gaps and maximize your portfolio.

Investments

If you own investments, you should take stock of where they are, especially if the economy has recently undergone a shift. Items to check in this category include:

  • Checking your asset allocation.
  • Determining which investments will best help you meet your asset allocation goals

Tip: Consult an investment expert when examining the viability of your investments.

Tax Planning

As you rebalance your portfolio, remember to take into account how selling your assets will impact your tax liability. You can complete this step at the end of the year by:

  • Reviewing whether you need to offset your capital losses and gains.
  • Replacing losing investment items with better-performing ones to offset a likely higher tax bill. This is called harvesting tax losses.
  • Checking whether you should use appreciated securities to support family members or make charitable donations. Which one makes more financial sense tax-wise?

Future Savings

Next, try to figure out areas where you could be saving money, which you can put away for the future or direct to your emergency fund. Think about whether you should:

  • Contribute more of your paycheck to your emergency savings account or retirement.
  • Rethink your auto insurance
  • Refinance your current mortgage
  • Reduce your food budget
  • Cut your cable
  • Reduce your energy bill

Financial Emergency Plan

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that setting up an emergency fund is a crucial part of any financial plan. Doing this ensures you have some resources to fall back on in the event hard times hit. In this section, review your emergency plan and:

  • Ensure you have set up medical and financial powers of attorney
  • Check that you are sufficiently covered, i.e., you have temporary disability insurance, health insurance, life insurance, auto liability insurance, etc.
  • Make sure you have set aside between three to six months’ worth of expenses.

Alternative Income Streams

Lastly, you need to consider alternative sources of income. If you have Social Security benefits, a pension plan, and a 401(k), you could be set for retirement, but there is so much more you could do. Consider the following possible income-generating avenues:

  • Buying dividend stocks
  • Creating a monetized website
  • Starting a side hustle
  • Investing in peer-to-peer lending
  • Getting a part-time job
  • Real estate crowdfunding, especially if you do not wish to own property at the moment.
  • Investing in the rental property and getting regular income as a landlord
  • Getting a reverse mortgage. This is only advisable if you own your home, are old enough, and are short on funds.

Conclusion

This detailed financial planning checklist will help you determine your current financial situation and identify ways you can make it better. It should help you review your assets and liabilities, set goals for the future, and determine the best ways to achieve said goals. When using it, ensure you go through every point and consider it, even if you do not wish to pursue it immediately.