Published 11 months ago
Let's talk about everyone's favourite topic: money. 🤑
Okay, maybe not everyone's favourite, but it's certainly an important one!
As we grow up and start our own lives, we're faced with a variety of financial decisions that can have a huge impact on our future — That's where financial planning comes in.
Financial planning is the process of setting financial goals, creating a budget, and making smart decisions with your money to achieve those goals. It's not just for rich people or finance gurus - it's something that everyone can and should do, regardless of income or background.
Why, you ask? Well, let me give you a few reasons:
Financial planning helps you reach your goals: Whether you're saving for a house, planning for retirement, or just trying to pay off student loans, having a plan in place can help you achieve those goals faster and more efficiently.
Financial planning reduces stress: Money can be a huge source of stress, especially when you're not sure where your money is going or how to make ends meet. By creating a budget and sticking to it, you can reduce your financial stress and feel more in control of your money.
Financial planning prepares you for the unexpected: Life is unpredictable, and you never know when an emergency or unexpected expense might pop up. By building an emergency fund and having a plan in place for how to handle unexpected expenses, you'll be better prepared to handle whatever comes your way.
By the end of this article, you'll have all the tools you need to start taking control of your finances and achieving your financial goals. Let's get started!
Step 1: Set Financial Goals
Okay, so you know that financial planning is important, but where do you start?
The first step is to set some financial goals. These goals will serve as your roadmap for your financial journey, giving you something to work towards and helping you stay motivated along the way.
Here's how to set financial goals that are SMART:
Specific: Your goals should be specific and clearly defined. For example, instead of saying "I want to save money," try setting a goal like "I want to save RM20,000 for a down payment on a house."
Measurable: Your goals should be measurable so that you can track your progress. For example, you might set a goal to save RM1,000 per month towards your down payment.
Achievable: Your goals should be achievable, but also challenging enough to push you out of your comfort zone. For example, if you're currently saving RM500 per month, setting a goal to save RM2,000 per month might not be achievable.
Relevant: Your goals should be relevant to your overall financial plan and aligned with your values and priorities. For example, if you value travel, setting a goal to save for a trip might be more relevant to you than saving for a down payment on a house.
Time-bound: Your goals should have a deadline or timeline attached to them. For example, you might set a goal to save RM20,000 for a down payment within the next two years.
By setting SMART financial goals, you'll have a clear direction for your finances and a plan to make them happen.
Don't be afraid to dream big and set ambitious goals, but also make sure they're realistic and achievable. Once you've set your goals, it's time to move on to the next step: creating a budget. ✨
Step 2: Create a budget
Now that you've set your financial goals, it's time to create a budget to help you achieve them. A budget is like a superhero sidekick, helping you save the day (and your bank account).
Here's how to create a budget that works for you:
Track your spending: Before you create a budget, you need to know where your money is currently going. This step might be a little scary (like a horror movie), but it's necessary to understand your spending habits.
Set spending limits: Once you know where your money is going, you can set spending limits for each category. Don't let your budget be a villain, trying to steal your joy. Instead, let it be a helpful guide that keeps you on track.
Prioritise your expenses: Some expenses are more important than others. Think of it like choosing which friends to invite to a party. You want to invite the important ones first (like rent and bills) before inviting the fun ones (like dining out).
Plan for irregular expenses: Don't let unexpected expenses ruin your budget like a jump scare in a horror movie. Plan ahead by setting aside a little money each month to cover irregular expenses.
Stick to your budget: Creating a budget is one thing, but sticking to it is another. Be willing to make sacrifices (like saying no to a night out with friends) to stay on track.
Remember, a budget is your friend, not your enemy. It's a tool to help you achieve your financial goals and live your best life. By creating a budget that works for you and sticking to it, you'll be able to enjoy all the things you love without worrying about your finances.
Step 3: Build an emergency fund
Building an emergency fund is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself from financial disasters. An emergency fund is like a safety net, providing a cushion to fall back on when unexpected expenses arise.
Here's how to build an emergency fund:
Determine how much you need: Most financial experts recommend having three to six months' worth of living expenses in your emergency fund. To calculate how much you need, add up your essential monthly expenses (like rent, utilities, and groceries) and multiply by three to six.
Start small: Building an emergency fund can feel daunting, but don't let that stop you from starting. Even setting aside a small amount each month, like RM100 each month can add up over time.
Automate your savings: Make saving for your emergency fund easy by automating it. Set up a direct deposit from your paycheck into a separate savings account, so you don't even have to think about it.
Use windfalls wisely: If you receive a windfall like a bonus or tax refund, resist the urge to splurge. Instead, put it towards your emergency fund to give it a boost!
Keep it separate: It's important to keep your emergency fund separate from your other savings accounts. That way, you won't be tempted to dip into it for non-emergency expenses. (It’s okay, we’ve all been there)
Having an emergency fund is like having a superhero on standby, ready to swoop in and save the day. It can provide peace of mind and protect you from financial hardship!
Step 4: Pay off debt
Paying off debt can be a bit of a buzzkill, but it's an important part of financial planning.
High-interest debt, like credit card balances, can creep up on you like a bad hangover and make it tough to achieve your financial goals.
But fear not, here's how to pay off debt like a pro:
Make a list of your debts: The first step in tackling debt is to face it head-on. Make a list of all your debts, from the annoying store credit card to the soul-crushing student loans. 🫂
Prioritise high-interest debt: Think of your high-interest debt like a lousy DJ at a party. It's always ruining the vibe by demanding attention with bad remixes. So, prioritise paying off your high-interest debt first to kick it to the curb.
Create a debt repayment plan: Now that you've prioritised your debts, it's time to create a plan of attack. Decide how much you can realistically afford to pay each month and make a schedule for paying off each debt.
Consider debt consolidation: Consolidating your debt can simplify your debt repayment plan and potentially save you some cash on interest!
Stay motivated: Paying off debt is a bit like running a marathon. It takes time, dedication, and a healthy dose of motivation. Celebrate your small wins, like paying off a credit card balance, and keep your eyes on the prize of financial freedom.
Remember, paying off debt isn't always fun, but it's necessary for reaching your financial goals. You got this!
Step 5: Invest for the future
Investing for the future can seem intimidating, especially when you're young and retirement feels like a lifetime away. But trust me, investing early and consistently can make a huge difference in your financial future.
Here's how to get started:
Start small: You don't need to be a financial whiz to start investing. Begin by setting aside a small amount each month for investments. It could be as little as 5% of your paycheck.
Take advantage of retirement accounts: Take advantage of your high-interest EPF account or similar retirement plans. These accounts allow you to invest your retirement fund and can significantly boost your savings over time.
Diversify your investments: Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Spread your investments across different types of assets, such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.
Be patient: Investing is a long-term game. Don't get discouraged by short-term fluctuations in the market. Stay focused on your goals and stick to your investment plan.
If you want to be sitting on a gorgeous beach in Bali and sipping on a cold drink at 60, saving for your retirement now is crucial. You wouldn’t want to be stressed about money at that age!
So, start today and let your money work for you. Your future self will thank you for it.
Congratulations on making it to the end of this ultimate beginner's guide to financial planning! You're one step closer to achieving financial freedom and living your best life.
Financial planning can seem daunting, but don't let that discourage you. With the right mindset, tools, and resources, anyone can take control of their finances and achieve their goals, whether it's travelling the world, buying a home, or starting a business
So, take action today. Set your financial goals, create a plan, and start making progress towards achieving them. And don't forget to celebrate your wins along the way.
We believe in you! 💙
Tune in every week to learn more about personal finance.
I’m Sabrina, a versatile writer with 7+ years of experience and I’ve been published by household names such as Tatler, Harper’s Bazaar, Mindvalley, and Cosme Japan.