8 questions to ask yourself before you create a financial plan
It’s easy to think that creating a plan for your finances means putting money first.
And while money is required day-to-day, a financial plan is all about your future.
So, to begin with, let’s put money aside and figure out what sort of future we think we’d like.
Here are 8 things to think about to help focus on what’s important to you. I’ll provide my own personal examples too.
1) What’s going on in your life right now?
How do each of these things make you feel? It can be a positive or negative feeling.
I’ve put these things in a specific order of priority as we naturally tend to think about work as a priority, especially if we feel overworked.
Personal Example: I’m spending more time with my nieces and it’s really nice becoming closer with them and having fun.
2) What do you do for fun?
Think about anything you like doing. Don’t restrict it to just your spare time. It could be an element of your job that you consider fun, like having lunch with your colleagues.
Would you like to do it more often?
How would you feel if you couldn’t do it anymore?
Personal Example: I love going to the gym most days of the week and its something that makes me feel good mentally and physically. If I couldn’t do it anymore, I would worry about my health.
3) What gives you purpose?
This can be a hard one to define.
Consider things that:
You might like to break up your life into different elements and see which elements give you purpose.
Personal Example: I like seeing how my work can impact others. This motivates me to learn and develop.
4) What are your values and beliefs?
Think about how you live your life and how you want to continue living it. A key thread in our lives are the things we value dearly and believe in. It doesn’t need to be a physical value – it can be a part of your personality that you feel proud of, or a belief that influences your behaviour.
Personal Example: I value having little stress in my life. Keeping my life as stress-free as possible is important to me.
5) Do you have any dreams?
We tend to not take dreams seriously…we’ve all dreamt of what we’d do if won the lottery!
This question is more to focus on something that evokes a gut feeling.
You don’t even need to think ‘big’. A dream is subjective so what might seem big to you might seem minor to somebody else.
Personal Example: I dream of being able to spend more time in New York. Its my favourite place and would love to spend an extended period there.
6) What gives you anxiety?
Again, this is personal to you so don’t worry about trying to find something that anybody would get anxious about.
The aim of this question is to make you aware of something that worries you. This question could have a financial link, if money gives you anxiety.
Once you’ve answered ‘what’, then think about any reasons why it gives you anxiety. At the moment money is a real worry for many people, buts it’s not the money itself causing the anxiety. It’s what they can’t do if they don’t have the money. Like feed their children or keep a roof under their heads.
Personal Example: I get anxious when I don’t have a routine. Structure makes me feel settled and in control.
7) Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years’ time?
This is the sort of question I can’t stand in a job interview. But for something broader like your life in general, it’s worth thinking about.
Don’t go into detail…after all we can’t predict the future with great accuracy. Think about some of the answers to the previous questions as this may help you define your future.
Personal Example: I see myself living a suburban house, looking after my nieces and working in a senior position.
8) Who do you want to spend with time in the future?
The obvious people to think about are family and friends. But include work too, if being around colleagues and peers is important to you.
Would you like more time to spend with these people?
Personal Example: I’d like to spend more time with family as my parents get older and my nieces grow up.
Putting it all together
Once you’ve written down some answers, you can start to build a picture of what’s important to you in life. And from there we can start to weave your finances into the mix.
Which bits of your future are easy to place a financial value on?
Are there things you’ve identified you’d like to do but not sure you can afford to do them?
Have any answers made you think differently about your future? Does money play a role in that?
Common things (remembering everything is still personal to you) you can put a monetary value on:
Doing more of a particular hobby
Taking that dream holiday
Moving closer to family so you can see them more
Doing a less stressful job
Focussing on your health
Planning to have your own family
Investing in self-development
Yes, we all have financial responsibilities, and we all need to make ends meet day-to-day.
But looking at the bigger picture, a long-term financial plan is not just about paying your bills and saving a bit for later.
It can help you focus on savings goals for the future or setting other financial goals to help support the future life you want. And knowing what's truly important to you is at the heart of a meaningful financial plan.