The Lifecycle Financial Planning Approach

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The lifecycle financial planning approach places all your financial activity into distinct time periods, or stages, with retirement acting as the final phase in the financial lifecycle.

This approach is powerful as it provides you a clear framework for evaluating different decisions. Here are the 5 standard financial life stages encompassed in the lifecycle approach. Keep in mind the stated age ranges are merely guideposts, some of you will pass through stages more quickly or more slowly depending on your circumstances.

1. Early Career
Ranging in age from 25 to 35 years old, early career phase adults are starting to build a foundation for a strong financial future. You may be planning to start a family, if you have not done so already. If you do not yet own a home, you might be saving for one. At this stage, keeping income in step with expenses is a struggle, but it’s important to lay the groundwork for retirement saving now.

2. Career Development
From ages 35 to 50, earnings rise, but so do financial demands. Keeping expenses in line with income is a challenge in this stage. Many families are concerned with covering college costs and paying for ongoing expenses while also increasing the pace of saving for retirement.

3. Peak Accumulation
In this stage, from the early 50s into the early 60s, you typically reach your maximum income level. It may be a time of relative freedom as your children have graduated from college. Without college tuition and with lower expenses, you can accelerate savings rates to position yourself for a more secure retirement.

4. Pre-Retirement
About 3 to 6 years before winding down professionally, you should start restructuring assets to reduce risk and increase income. By this point, mortgages are usually paid and children are independent. This is the time to evaluate retirement income options and the tax consequences of investments.

5. Retirement
The final financial lifecycle phase occurs for people in their mid-60s and beyond. Once you stop working, your focus shifts from wealth accumulation to income preservation. In this stage, the goal is to preserve your purchasing power and enjoy your desired lifestyle. Estate planning and legacy considerations also gain importance as you age.

As we transition through each life stage, we should adjust our focus each step of the way to ensure our financial plan remains appropriate for our risk tolerance, age and goals.

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Why We Shouldn’t be Bothered with Fear-Mongers

bad-economic-headlinesThere is much fearmongering in the different media which we are exposed to everyday. Take a look at the money section of any website, newspaper or magazine and you will find stories warning you about the Chinese economy, the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policies, the impact of the U.S. presidential election, global oil markets and market volatility.

But none of these stories—while interesting to read and think about—is worthy of spending too much of your brainpower.

Why? Because these big global factors are beyond your control and will be resolved without the slightest help from you.

You cannot control how the S&P 500 will perform or whether the European region will restart pumping profits. History has shown us that there are times when the U.S. markets outperform foreign markets and when the opposite is true. This is also true when it comes to growth stocks, value stocks, small and large companies. There is no way to successfully or consistently predict what will happen next.

So why do we bother?

Psychologists call it the “illusion of control“. Our intellectual minds tell us we can figure it out, even when—trust me—we can’t!

Putting your precious time into what you CAN control is really the only sensible way to go.

Here are six actions where focusing your energies in will reap you rewards:

  1. Develop rational goals built on your values. Let’s face it, without a real plan, you have decided to drift and hope for the best.
  1. Consider possible life transitions and how they might impact your actions. Transitions rarely give notice, so considering the impact of possibilities allows you to put solutions in place.
  1. Build agreement with other stakeholders (your spouse, a partner) on strategies to reach your goals. With all parties working toward the same goals, you’re more likely to be working for each other and get things accomplished.
  1. Invest time and resources to work with professionals who can help move your goals forward. Whether it’s creating a retirement plan or a proper risk management plan, you’ll benefit from working with experienced experts.
  1. Know your financial numbers and assign priorities for savings, accumulation and spending. Consider a rating system from 1 to 5, where you assign a point system to where your paycheck and resources go.
  1. Understand more about the “whys” of your life. Our beliefs don’t just arrive in our thinking like a magician’s trick. On the contrary, your money beliefs—your mindset—come from your money history over the course of your life. And it’s that mindset that determines what you consider the norm. Taking the time to understand whether your beliefs support your values is always time well spent.

These actions are very specific to you—you make the choices, decisions and actions that will support the outcomes you desire.

Devoting time to the economic issues of China or whether equity markets will rise or fall is beyond your ability to control and will only divert your attention from what really impacts your life.