Sunday, September 14, 2008

Free Financial Planning

Yesterday, as scheduled, Michael and I headed downtown to go to the Certified Financial Planner Board's free financial planning clinic. It was definitely worth our time -- and it was free!

I drew up the draft of our new spending plan earlier this week and then got Michael's input before we both approved the final version. This morning, I printed it out along with a report of our current net worth which detailed all of our accounts (assets and liabilities). I drafted some questions so we knew what we wanted to find out from the financial planners. And after Michael returned from a 18-mile (marathon training) run, we ventured off to the clinic.

We talked with 4 different planners in 3 different topic groups: general financial planning, retirement planning, and income tax planning. I guess we spent about 10 to 15 minutes with each one. We wanted their opinions on our newly minted spending and savings plan, on priorities (saving versus paying off a high interest car loan), on retirement savings, on saving for a down payment on a house, and on filing joint income taxes.

It was helpful that I took our detailed information with us. Generalities really don't work very well in financial planning. In fact, the CFP Board's introduction to the clinic told us that. So, we were able to get some tailored advice. And like all of the planners told us, just knowing our net worth and thinking about financial matters puts us well ahead of the curve.

The good news is that we seem to be on the right track. Our natural instincts were in line with the professionals' advice. Now, we just need to stay the course.

If the CFP Board does a clinic in your area, I highly recommend going. But whether you go to a free clinic or pay a planner or do it on your own, just make sure you make a financial plan. You'll reach your goals a lot easier and faster.

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