How to Create a Personal Financial Plan

3 Simple Steps to Create a Personal Financial Plan

Remember: A man is not a financial plan, so it’s time to learn how to rely on yourself

When I was a girl, one of my favorite movies was Cinderella. I loved watching the fairy godmother magically transform Cinderella's rags to a beautiful princess dress so that she could attend the ball, find her prince, and live happily ever after.

Growing up, I dreamed about meeting my own prince who would sweep me off to a castle for a life of royalty.

But the older I got, the more I saw women buying into this fantasy in real life, and saw how many times that prince and castle turned into prisons that kept these women from achieving financial independence and self-sufficiency. It didn't take me long to realize that my happily ever after was not going to come from a man. It could only come from myself.

The long-term problem with the Cinderella Complex

After watching some of the classic princess movies, it's no surprise so many women in this day and age turn to a man to solve their financial problems. Instead of taking ownership of their life, they put all their trust in a boyfriend or husband to earn the money and take care of the finances.

This Cinderella Complex has led thousands of women to making some very questionable decisions, like:

  • Marrying for money.

  • Staying in a bad relationship because they're afraid they can't make it financially on their own.

  • Letting a man make all key financial decisions.

  • Accepting the myth that men are better with money.

  • Not challenging a man's financial decisions for fear of hurting their ego.

  • Keeping quiet to keep the peace.

The list goes on and on.

It's more important than ever to break this cycle, and teach the next generation of women that a man is not a financial plan, and that only they can take charge of their financial freedom.

Women are making great strides

Thankfully, women’s reliance on men is improving. More and more women are actively pursuing careers, starting businesses, and investing in assets. Women are also waiting longer to get married. According to Brides magazine, which pulled data from the U.S. Census Bureau, "The average age for first marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men" — a statistic that has steadily risen over the past 50 years.

This bodes well for women having more time to explore a career and learn to control their own finances before getting married.

However, several myths still exist that say that men are better at finances than women, and the running joke about going to college to earn a "Mrs. Degree" still circulates among millennial women.

Now, there's nothing wrong with marriage. Robert and I recently celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary, and he has been a wonderful partner for me in life and business. But that's the key word: partner. Robert and I are equals in everything regarding our relationship, especially money. And the sad fact is that that's not true for many women today.

Many women still face inequality in their own households. Some of them have no say in financial decisions, and instead let their spouse do all the work. That strategy often comes crashing down on them, however, when life throws them a curveball and shatters that financial plan.

Divorce, death, job loss, economic downturns, these are just a few of the things that can ruin the "perfect" financial plan of relying on someone else to handle your money. Many women are waking up to the reality that they aren't prepared when life changes overnight. More and more women are taking control of their finances, often for the first time in their lives.

You are your financial plan

Repeat after me: You should never depend on anyone to be your financial plan — and that most definitely includes your spouse, the government, a financial advisor, or your family. All of those things can be taken away without any notice, for one reason or another. The only person you can rely on to be there for you your entire life is yourself.

Maybe you are happily married. Maybe you have a great financial advisor, or inherited family wealth giving you a cushion. Whatever your situation, you need to take control over your finances, so that no matter what happens, you are able to bounce back stronger than ever. It starts with getting your own unique financial plan together.

3 steps to creating your financial plan

Are you ready to build your own personal financial plan? Here are the steps to follow:

Maybe you want more control over your life and your finances. Maybe you are in debt and want to break free of the chains of debt payment. Maybe you have recently gone through a divorce or other change in lifestyle that necessitates you getting your financial plan together. Whatever it is, be crystal clear on the reason why you are starting this journey. Hold on to it tight. Write it on a post-it note and put it somewhere you can see it. Your reason why will get you through those times when things don't go as planned, or when you start to doubt yourself. Having a compelling motive will keep you going.

Take stock of where you are today financially. What's your current financial status? Determine how wealthy you really are by asking yourself this question: If I stopped working today, how many days could I survive financially?

Look at your monthly expenses. Add up how much money you have in savings, stocks, and cash flow. Then, it’s time to calculate your wealth number.

Follow this equation:

Your Income / divided by / Monthly Expenses = Your Wealth

Many people are surprised to learn this number — so if it shocks you, that’s OK. Knowing it is half the battle, and hopefully enough to motivate you to make some changes to your financial future.

  1. Find your reason why. Start by figuring out the reason you are finally deciding to become financially free.

  2. Determine where you are today. Before you can get to where you want to go, you have to know where you are.

  3. Decide which investment plan is best for your lifestyle. Now that you know where you are financially, where do you want to go from here? And, more importantly, how will you get there? In this part of the planning process, there are two questions to ask yourself:

Both are good investment options, and this decision comes down to personal choice (for me, cash flow is queen!). The second question to ask yourself is:

  1. Am I investing for capital gains or for cash flow?

    Capital gains come when you buy an investment like a stock, and it appreciates so that you can sell it for more than you bought it. Or if you buy a house, fix it up, and flip it for capital gains. Cash flow is when you invest in an asset that pays you a certain amount each month, such as buying a house and renting it out. That monthly rent check becomes your cash flow.

  2. What's my goal?

    Is your goal to be financially free? Is your goal to get out of debt? Is your goal to earn enough that you can quit your job and devote more time to your family or passions? Whatever it is, have a tangible and attainable goal that you can work toward.

How to get to your financial goal

You know where you are, you know where you want to go, and you know a little bit how you will move forward. But that's still not enough. Now's the time to drill deeper and get a more detailed plan together.

This is where your homework begins. Now you create the plan that will get you to your goal. There are so many investment vehicles available to you, so start researching and find what your preferred investment is. Learn everything you can about your investment choice: read books, take free investment classes, seek out a mentor, find a personal finance coach, speak with an advisor, play the CASHFLOW Board Game, study the financial section of the newspaper. Again, this is only something you can do, no one can learn all this for you.

Be your own Prince Charming

The choice is yours. You can sit back, let someone else make financial decisions for you, rely on a spouse or government policy to take care of you. I'm sure you could live quite comfortably that way, for a little while anyways. But it doesn't last. The past year has shown us just how chaotic the economy is, and how quickly things can change overnight.

We can't control life's ups and downs. The only thing we can control is how prepared we are to tackle the challenges when they come. Is your financial plan stable? Maybe it's time to make that change, and become your own financial plan.

Original publish date: December 08, 2016