Studies have shown that financial planning plays a key role in achieving major life goals. Why wait any longer? Start assessing your current situation, setting goals, and planning for your own financial future today.
The Best Laid Plans
Before you can start planning, you need a clear picture of where you stand today. Tracking your income and expenses on a regular basis and assessing your net worth -- total assets minus total debts -- helps you see how much money you can commit to individual financial goals.
Your First Home
Home ownership is at the heart of the American dream. The biggest obstacle facing home buyers is funding a down payment -- now typically 20% of a home's purchase price. The good news is there are many down-payment options for first-time buyers. Check with banks or mortgage companies in your area to see what special programs may be available to you.
If you intend to buy a house within five years, a good way to save for a down payment may be through short-term investments, such as bond or money market funds. In addition, you can now use money from an IRA to help pay for your first home. Up to $10,000 can be withdrawn penalty free, although you'll have to pay taxes on amounts withdrawn from a traditional IRA.
Your Child's Education
Ideally you should start saving for your child's education as soon as -- or even before -- he or she is born. Tuition and fees at four-year colleges continue to rise between 4% and 6% annually -- more than twice the current rate of inflation.* Depending on your child's age, you may want to consider investing your education dollars in stocks or stock mutual funds. While stocks can be riskier than other investments over short time periods, over the long-term they have historically produced the highest returns.
There are many other education savings options, and some, such as state-sponsored 529 college savings plans, offer tax advantages as well.
Planning for a secure retirement is probably your most important long-term financial goal. Experts estimate that, in many cases, you will need at least 70% to 80% of your final working year's salary for each year you spend in retirement.
That's why it's important to start saving for retirement early in life and keep saving as much as you can throughout your working years. By making regular contributions to your retirement account at work, and by choosing the investment options best suited for your years until retirement, you are taking advantage of one of the easiest -- and most effective -- ways to save for this important goal.
Get the Help You Need
Knowing the right financial moves to make and when to make them is a complicated job that most of us don't have the resources to handle alone. For additional information, call Washington Trust Wealth Management at (800) 582-1076.
Source: The College Board Online, 2013.