Financial Planning Overview

Financial Planning

We all try to plan our lives as much as possible. We expect to finish studies in our early 20s, get a job, buy a house by the age of 27, get a car by 29 and so on. Our capacity to dream and aim is unlimited. This needs thorough planning and execution. More than that, it needs money. Not simply earning, but also saving and investments. And to fuel our dreams, we need financial planning.

Here's all you need to know:

What is financial planning?

Making money is not just about earning from a job or multiple sources. It is about effective money management, saving and then investing in the right financial assets to earn more profits. Simply put, you need to make money out of money through investments. This is the only way to roll around in money.

Financial planning is the act of managing your income; setting your financial goals and then allocating your assets across investments keeping in mind your limitations and requirements.

What are the broad areas in which financial planning can be undertaken?

Financial planning is not a simple task. You need to take into account multiple factors about your life – past, present and future – in order to form a feasible financial plan. Remember, for a plan to be effective, it has to be well-thought, comprehensive and with an eye on the future.
Simply put, a financial plan has to be planned by individuals keeping in mind their stage in life cycle and their needs.

Who requires financial planning?

Everyone. Whoever has money and wants to utilize it in the best possible way, then financial and investment planning is a must.
As the old adage goes – If one is failing to plan, they are surely planning to fail.

How it is different from wealth management?

Wealth management and financial planning are fundamentally similar. However, there is a key difference – you can only manage wealth if you already have it. Financial planning, on the other hand, is even for those who aim to amass wealth.

Why should you make a financial plan?

Not enough can be said about the need for financial planning. We list some of the advantages, which can have far reaching positive effects on one's life.

What should a financial plan include?

Every financial plan differs. This is because it has to be tailored to suit an individual's needs and wants. That said, there are some components every plan should cover.

While these factors should have precedence, care should be taken than other things that may affect your financial goal should also be covered.

What is goal setting?

How can you plan a journey without knowing where you are going? A goal is the first and most important step in financial and investment planning. This acts as a foundation of all the following parts of the planning process. For this reason, the process of setting your goal is important.

Why is goal prioritization important?

We rarely have only one thing to achieve in life. While planning your finances, you have to take in consideration all your goals, be it something as large as a Rs 100 crore-retirement allowance or as small as that branded T-shirt you have been eyeing on your way from work.

This is why you need to prioritize your goals. They are not equally important, and some need to be achieved first. Efficient prioritization is the key to good planning.

Assessing the current situation.

Dreams and imagination are wonderful, no doubts. But we live in the reality. So, everyone has to understand their current state of life before planning for the future. Simply put, the financial plan is like a bridge connecting your today and future. So your goals and current assessment act as the platform. And you cannot have a strong bridge on rickety bases.

For this reason, introspection of your current situation is the starting point to bridge the gap between the present and the future.

What is Financial Planning?

Money is very important, as materialistic as it may sound. Without it, you can’t access to even the basic necessities in life, forget about the comforts and luxuries we dream about.

Making money is still comparatively easier than maintaining it or doubling it. It is not just about getting a stable job and earning; it has got much more to do with managing your earnings well and saving it for the future. And if you have bigger aspirations, then investments are a must.

All this requires financial planning. Let’s look at what it is all about:

  • What is financial planning: It is the act of managing your income; setting your financial goals and allocating your assets across investments while keeping in mind your limitations and requirements.
  • Differs for everyone: Financial planning may mean different things to different people. This is because the end goal may differ. For you, it may mean planning investments to provide security during retirement. For another, it may mean planning savings and investments to provide money for child’s college education.

For someone else, it could mean ensuring a steady secondary source of income. Financial planning may even mean making career-related decisions or choosing the right insurance products. In reality, financial planning is the process of meeting financial goals through the proper management of finances.

  • Not just saving : Again, simply saving money is not enough. It has to be invested in the right financial products to ensure their value increases with time. This is even more imperative in a country like India where inflation remains high. This price rise eats into the value of your money. So, Rs. 100 may not have the same value tomorrow.

For this reason, investment is a must. Financial planning helps you here too. Once you have an idea about your goals, financial and investment planning can be undertaken to understand where you stand currently and how to reach your final goal. Planning can thus be done by anyone with a clear assessment of one's inflow of funds and the goals that need to be achieved from time to time.

  • Roadmap to stability: It is all about preparing a sequence of action steps to achieve a specific financial goal. A financial plan is a roadmap to achieve your life's financial goals. It is like a map, where you can always see how much you have progressed towards your projected financial goal and how far you are from your destination. .
  • Saving money right: People often have a misconception that financial planning is about saving more and spending less, but that is not the case. It is more about saving the right amount so that future goals can be met. The objective of financial planning is to ensure that the right amount of money is available in right hands at the right point of time in the future to achieve the desired goals and objectives.

It, thus, provides direction and meaning to your financial decisions, and allows you to understand how each financial decision you make affects other areas of your finances. .

  • Risk profiling: A key part of financial planning is risk profiling. This includes analyzing your current situation and likely future scenarios to understand your financial limitations. Using this, you can determine how much risk you can take.

For example, you have high liquidity needs and many dependents, you cannot take high risks. This would be especially so if you did not have a big contingency fund to help you in emergencies. Financial planning thus helps you give perspective to your limitations and capabilities.

  • Financial planning process: Financial planning is important because it guides and controls the financial decision making process. While making a financial plan, your objectives and constraints are included so that it represents the long-term roadmap. Planning is a dynamic process. So, if there are any changes in your circumstances, they can be incorporated into the financial plan.

It, thus, consists of the following activities:

  • Assessing present assets and resources to understand the current situation.

  • Setting goals and objectives – both in terms of returns and risks.

  • Determining constraints and financial planning areas like taxes, legalities, time horizon, liquidity, as well as unique circumstances that may differ from person to person.

  • Determining appropriate plan and strategy to achieve financial goals.

  • Evaluating the plan regularly.

  • Adjusting and modifying the plan if there is a change in conditions.

Broad areas of financial planning

Your life has multiple aspects – your family, your work, your social life, your hobbies, and so on. Money touches all of these aspects. For this reason, financial planning is not a simple task. It has to be all-encompassing to be an effective plan. Moreover, you need to consider not just your present, but also your future.

Here is a seven-point checklist covering the broad areas in which financial planning can be undertaken:

Cash flow planning: In simple terms, cash flow refers to the inflow and outflow of money. It is a record of your income and expenses. Though this sounds simple, very few people actually take time out to find out what comes in and what goes out of their hands each month. Cash flow planning refers to the process of identifying the major expenditures in the present and the future (both short-term and long-term), and making planned investments.

This is to ensure you have the required amount whenever needed. Cash flow planning is the first thing that should be done prior to starting an investment exercise. Without this planning, you will not be in a position to know how your finances look like, and what you can invest in without stretching your liquidity. It will also enable you to understand if a particular investment matches with your cash flow requirement.

Investment planning: Saving and investing are two separate activities. One has to do with your expenditure, while the other has to do with financial instruments. Your wealth will only grow over time if you have invested it in assets. Investment planning deals with the kind of instruments an individual should invest in to get the best out of his wealth.

The first part of this planning has to do with your risk and return profile. This is where you set your limits in terms of the risk you are willing to take and the minimum return you expect. This is done based on your life stage, spending requirements with respect to your income and wealth, time horizon, liquidity requirements, and various individual specific constraints. Investment planning is important because it helps you to derive the maximum benefit from your investments.

Tax planning: Tax evasion is illegal, but tax minimization is legal. Thus, you can reduce your tax liability by planning effectively. With proper tax planning you can increase your after tax income. This could also decide your investment decisions.

For example, if you want to save tax, you may prefer to hold stocks for at least a year before selling. That way, you could avoid the short-term capital gains tax. This would change your trading strategy altogether. Similarly, you could prefer instruments that offer tax-benefits like Public Provident Funds (PPF) and so on.

Retirement planning: This kind of planning means making sure you will have enough money to live on after retiring from work. Retirement should be the best period of your life, when you can literally sit back and relax. You are essentially reaping the benefits of years of hard work. This is easier said than done. To achieve a hassle-free retired life, you need to make prudent investment decisions during your working life, thus putting your hard-earned money to work for you in future. Planning for retirement is as important as planning your career and marriage. Life takes its own course and from the poorest to the wealthiest, no one gets spared. We get older every day, without realizing. However, we assume that old age is never going to touch us.

The future depends to a great extent on the choices you make today. Right decisions with the help of proper financial planning taken at the right time will assure your peace during retirement. Retirement planning acquires added importance because of the fact that though longevity has increased, the number of working years haven't.

Children’s future planning: It is essential to plan for the future of your children. The purpose of planning for your child or children’s future is to create a corpus for foreseeable expenditures such as higher education and wedding.

Thus, you will be able to provide an adequate security cover during their growing years. For ensuring adequate funding of your child's education, you as a parent need to not just save, but also invest systematically and at regular intervals.

Insurance planning: You never know what surprise life will throw at you. Insurance planning helps you provide a safety net that can come handy in times of trouble. This type of planning is concerned with ensuring adequate coverage against insurable risks. Calculating the right level of risk cover requires considerable expertise.

Proper insurance planning can help you look at the possibility of getting a wider coverage for the same amount or lower premium. Insurance enables you to live your lives to the fullest, without worrying about the financial impact of events that could hamper it. In other words, insurance protects you from contingencies.

Estate planning: Everyone acquires a considerable amount of real estate during his lifetime. In case of death or during lifetime, this can be transferred to either heirs or to institutions and charities. Planning this transfer in the most efficient way is termed as estate planning.

Who requires financial planning?

Financial planning is about managing your finances to achieve your financial goals in the most optimum manner. It's not about making huge savings or less spending nor does it mean having lots of money for huge making investments. It is about prioritizing your financial goals and achieving them in the most efficient manner to derive maximum utility out of your decisions.

For this reason, almost everyone requires financial planning. As the old adage goes – if one is failing to plan, then they are surely planning to fail. Good and thoughtful investment planning is the cornerstone of an individual's good financial health.

Whoever has financial goals and wants to achieve them in the most efficient manner requires financial planning. You don't have to be mega rich to have a financial plan. Neither do you have to be very old and approaching retirement. It does not matter how much you earn or what your age is. In fact, your financial situation influences almost every aspect of your lives – from the type of house you live in to the type of car you drive, to how many vacations you can take. Regular financial planning can help give you peace of mind.

Let's look at how financial planning differs with people in different life stage:

Youngster: You are quite likely in your 20s. You may have just gotten a job and it feels like a new-found independence. You finally feel one step closer to success. But, life requires self-generated, goal-oriented action – a plan.

This extends to every area of your life, including financial. The degree of your planning will determine at least in part the degree to which you are successful. And, although a financial plan does not guarantee success, it is necessary for it in the long-term. All too often, people delay planning for the future. They may feel such planning should take a back seat to staying financially afloat in the present.

However, even those living from paycheck to paycheck can benefit from financial planning by creating a budget. A budget can be used to determine what is actually spent each month and find ways to trim or even eliminate unnecessary or out-of-control expenditures.

Working adult: You may have enjoyed your youth, without a care in the world. But now, you are laden with responsibility – including financial ones. You may have to support your parents, spouse and children and are wondering how to do all of that with your salary income.

Create a financial plan right now. Start immediately. No matter what your income level or what your hopes for the future, you need a solid plan to achieve your goals. Drifting through life without carefully set goals and well-researched methods of achieving them is a recipe for disaster.

To enable your money to offer you more of what you want out of life, start creating a financial plan today.

Retired: You have hung up your boots and are planning to retire peacefully. But there is a thought nagging you at the back of your mind – how will you be financially stable without a source of income?

You may have to depend on your kids or relatives. A financial plan could help you get a steady stream of funds to help you through retirement. This could act as a passive source of income..

Planning for your child: Yes, even children need financial planning. This is usually undertaken by parents. Your child has a long road ahead – college, higher education, university abroad, travel plans and so on.

This is apart from the other wants and needs like the latest gadget or funds for medical emergencies. A proper financial plan can come handy here.

How financial planning is different from wealth management?

Before we understand the difference between financial planning and wealth management, let us first understand what wealth management is all about:

What is wealth management:

As the name suggests, wealth management is all about managing one’s wealth. This predominantly deals with preservation of wealth and further accumulation. As part of wealth management, investors often actively try to identify and take advantage of profit-making opportunities.

Difference between financial planning and wealth management:

Financial planning and wealth management are inherently very similar. Yet, there are some key differences. The biggest difference is that you already need to be wealthy to ‘manage’ your assets. Financial planning, on the other hand, is even for those who aim to amass wealth.

Financial planning, thus, is required by everybody, whatever your financial goals may be.

Financial Planning v/s Wealth Management

Let us look at when wealth management is required depending on the phase of your life:

Education Phase: This is the phase in which you gain knowledge and education about investment, but you may not have a lot of financial wealth. So, no wealth management is required. However, even at this time, you will have to do financial planning to make the best use of your money.

In such a case, financial planning includes decisions regarding how much to save for your daily expenses as well as investments, how much loan can be taken, how it will be paid off etc.

Accumulation Phase: This is the phase in which you start enacting your strategy and accumulating financial wealth. Here, wealth management may not be required at the start, but may be needed at later stages once a significant amount of assets are accumulated. Financial planning, however, is required even at this stage. Planning involves re-evaluating your strategy and changing it if required.

Decisions in this phase will be related to accumulation of financial wealth, calculating how much to spend now and how much to accumulate for future spending etc

Retirement Phase: In this phase, if individuals have accumulated wealth already, then wealth management is required. But, if they do not have large financial wealth, then it is not required.

On the other hand, financial planning is still required with decisions relating to investment planning (where to invest money) and estate planning (how to transfer real estate assets).

Thus, we can say that wealth management is required only by affluent investors, but financial planning is required by all at all stages of life. We can also say that in broader terms, wealth management is a part of financial planning.

How its Different from Wealth Management?

What should a financial plan include?

Now that we have gone through the whats and whys of a financial plan, let’s get down to business – how to actually make a financial plan. Depending upon an individual's needs and wants, a financial plan should include various components.

It should include everything, which helps in the attainment of your financial goals in the most efficient manner. Some things might have precedence over the others, but anything that even remotely affects your goals should be considered.

A financial plan differs from individual to individual, as something important for one may not be important for others.
However, broadly, we can say that it should include the following activities:

Assessing present: This part of the planning has to deal with taking stock of all the assets and resources you own currently. This helps you understand your current financial situation. It is the most important thing to do while doing financial planning.

As this is the starting point, utmost care should care should taken while assessing the present situation.

Setting objectives or goals: Now that you have your starting point, figure out your ending point – set your goals and objectives. This should be both in terms of the return you expect on your strategies and investments as well as the risk you are willing to take. That said, remember that a financial plan can consist of multiple goals of varying durations.

For example, your short-term goal may be buying a car or going on a month-long Europe trip, while your long-term goal may be to have a retirement corpus of Rs 100 crore. However, be realistic. Do not have a goal that is too far-fetched.

Design your goals on the basis of your current situation and desired future conditions. Since there can be multiple goals, prioritization is also important. This can be done on the basis of time, urgency and sheer importance.

Determining constraints: Everyone has some limitation or the other. These could be because of familial responsibilities, lack of access, government regulation and so on.

These need to be taken into consideration while forming your financial plan. Determine constraints in financial planning areas like taxes, legalities, time horizon, liquidity, risk appetite and obligations. There may also be unique circumstances that differ from person to person that should be taken into consideration.

For example, you may want to avoid companies making tobacco or alcohol for ethical reasons. This is a unique constraint. Nonetheless, it should be taken into account before designing a plan.

Determining appropriate plan and strategy: After analyzing the goals and constraints, various alternative strategies are designed. Compare these and find out the pros and cons of each plan.

The best plan – which achieves the goals in the most efficient manner – should be chosen.

Adjusting and modifying the plan: After evaluating the plan, if a change is required, the plan should be altered keeping in mind your current situation.

Appropriate modifications are an absolute must.

Evaluating the plan regularly: A financial planning is a dynamic process and not a static one. This is because individual circumstances keep on changing. For example, 10 years ago when you made the plan, you had no monthly loan liabilities. Today, you have to spend almost Rs 40,000 in installments alone.

This changes your liquidity constraints and requirements. For this reason, your financial plan should be evaluated on a timely basis.

Why should you make a financial plan?

There are many advantages of financial planning which can have far reaching positive effects on one's life.

Here are some reasons why a comprehensive financial plan is important:

Safety net for the future: Financial planning helps give a direction to your financial decisions. It helps you decide various investments that can bail you out of your financial problems.

For example, investing in various funds may help you repay the loan or save enough for your retirement. Once your financial goals are set, it helps make your life more secure and flexible for any financial emergency situation that may arise. Financial planning thus acts as a safety net for the future.

Always be prepared: Suppose you save 5% of your salary or Rs 10,000 every month. Suppose your after-tax savings consist of Rs 1 lakh. You are saving this to buy your own car three years later. What if a sudden medical emergency crops you, and wipes out your savings? Not only does it affect your wealth, but it could also fall short in an extreme case. Marriage plans of your only daughter?

Let's borrow some money from the retirement fund. There goes the trip to Egypt you have been planning all those years! Financial planning will come to your rescue here. It takes into account all your needs and goals, and helps you be ready for any eventuality.

Helps decision-making: Financial planning takes stock of your present as well as your future. It thus facilitates decision-making. Take the above example, if you had a proper financial plan in place, you would never be short of funds for your daughter’s marriage or for buying your car.

Thus, you would not take any wrong decisions that would affect your financial well-being. This is why financial planning is the key to success, as it provides a direction for your decisions.

Always be prepared: Suppose you save 5% of your salary or Rs 10,000 every month. Suppose your after-tax savings consist of Rs 1 lakh. You are saving this to buy your own car three years later. What if a sudden medical emergency crops you, and wipes out your savings? Not only does it affect your wealth, but it could also fall short in an extreme case. Marriage plans of your only daughter?

Let's borrow some money from the retirement fund. There goes the trip to Egypt you have been planning all those years! Financial planning will come to your rescue here. It takes into account all your needs and goals, and helps you be ready for any eventuality.

Optimum use of resources: A financial plan also helps you form a strategy. This helps you allocate your resources to different assets.

Thus, you use your money more wisely, leading to optimization of resources.

Better standard of living: With a realistic financial plan in place, you will never be short of funds. Liquidity will rarely be tight. All those month-end woes? Forget about them.

Thus, you can achieve your goals without compromising your standard of living.

Disciplined life: It is very common to spend more than what you earn. Many facilities like credit cards, ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes, installment services and so on, compel you to overlook finances or spend more than necessary. At the end of the month, when the bills keep pouring in your mail boxes, you find yourselves in a sticky situation.

The mounting bills only take you further away from your long-term dream of owning your own house. If you start planning early, you can get out of whole a lot of financial mess arising later in life. Financial planning thus helps infuse discipline in your life.

Expert advice: Financial planning if often undertaken with the help of an expert. It is wise to seek expert advice from professionals. If not, you could end up with poor financial information and decisions that can prove disastrous. In the case of the working individual, insufficient or random saving for retirement can lead to a poorer lifestyle later.

Similarly, in the case of the businessman, poorly managed tax preparation could culminate in unexpected debt and a loss of carefully accumulated wealth.

Courtesy : Kotak Securities