7 Steps for Perfecting Your Financial Plan

Who says you have to wait for the New Year to make a resolution? If your year-round resolutions include financial goals, then you’ll need a plan to achieve them. These seven steps can get you started.

Consider your life situation. From young parents to empty nesters, first-time job seekers to retirees, renters to new home buyers, your stage of life has a major impact on your financial goals — and thus your financial plan. So take a moment to jot down a personal profile, including any upcoming changes you’re expecting, such as a new baby or a promotion.

Check your credit. Keeping tabs on your credit history is an important part of understanding your complete financial picture. Request your credit report — it’s free once a year at annualcreditreport.com. Read it thoroughly, and if you spot any mistakes, address them promptly.

Assess your budget. Have you been able to stick to your budget over the past year? If not, do you need to change the budget or your spending habits? Have life changes created new expense categories that you need to account for? If your income has changed, consider adjusting your budget, too. And if you don’t have a budget, it’s time to make one.

Analyze your objectives. Do you have short-, mid- and long-term financial goals — and a plan to reach each one? Are you satisfied with the progress you’ve made toward them over the past year? If not, consider whether you need to readjust your goals or re-examine your plan. Perhaps you’ve actually accomplished some objectives — or thought of new ones.

Add up your debt. Consider the total amount that you owe, as well as the amount you pay each month on each bill. Has your debt load increased or decreased over the past year? Are you able to comfortably manage the monthly payments, ideally paying more than the minimum? Could you speed up repayment or lower your interest rate through debt consolidation?

Examine your savings and investments. Consider your overall portfolio, as well as each component of it. Do you have the basics covered, such as automatic deposits to your savings accounts, an emergency fund and contributions to tax-advantaged retirement accounts? Next, consider whether you’re satisfied with your returns and risk exposure. If not, it may be time to rebalance your portfolio.

Review your insurance coverage. The essential policies are usually health, auto, life, homeowners and long-term care. Gather up paperwork for each of your policies and consider if the coverage amount still matches your current needs. Do recent life changes mean you should make updates, such as increasing (or decreasing) coverage or adding riders? Also review your deductibles and decide if you need to raise or lower them.

If you’d like some assistance reviewing your financial plan, and making sure you have the right banking products and services to help meet your goals, your local Rabobanker or one of our experienced Wealth Advisors is here to help.


  1. “7 Important Reasons to Review Your Financial Plan,” CNBC, MoneyControl.com, posted Aug. 30, 2013, http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/investing/7-important-reasons-to-review-your-financial-plan_942847.html, accessed Oct. 16, 2014
  2. “8 Steps to Creating a Smart Financial Plan,” Juan Hovey, InvestingAnswers, posted Feb. 1, 2010, http://www.investinganswers.com/personal-finance/retirement-planning/8-steps-creating-smart-financial-plan-1022, accessed Oct. 16, 2014
  3. “How to Do an Annual Financial Checkup,” by Deborah Fowles, About.com, http://financialplan.about.com/od/personalfinancebasics/a/AnnualCheckup.htm, accessed Oct. 16, 2014

The information contained in this article is intended for general educational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal, tax, or financial advice. Please consult with your own legal, tax or financial advisor for guidance with your own particular circumstances.