Financial planning has often times been associated with the rich. Most people have the perception that only rich people can afford to plan their finances. Is this a fair observation?
So does this mean that if you are not rich, you should drop the idea of financial planning? What if you are in between these two extremes – the middle class or middle-income people?
I have constantly observed how the middle-income group struggle more compared to the low-income group. When you’re in the latter, you live a lifestyle more driven by need.
However, if you belong to the middle-income group, the decision-making process is based more on the want factor, not need anymore.
How then can the middle-income group reduce their disadvantage and propel themselves toward their aspirations and dreams? Below are some ideas that one can explore:
When it comes to investing, you cannot wait until you have enough money, and then only start to think about investing.
The popular belief is that we can only manage our financial affairs once we have surplus. However, in actual, those who have surplus are those who have done planning, and make it a point to ensure they do the needful.
Cash-flow management is crucial
If you manage your cash-flow and debt obligations, you would end up having surplus because without surplus, it’s impossible for one to have savings.
Protect your savings
It’s not easy to accumulate savings nowadays; thus, you need to learn to protect it efficiently. We cannot afford to overlook or ignore risk management as this can help protect our savings when financial losses occur.
Watch your credit behaviour
Those who are in credit card or debt crisis have once told themselves that they would just use the credit card for rebates and free-gifts, and that they would make sure they pay the billed amount every month.
The only trouble with this plan is that before you realise it, you are barely making minimum payments, and the amount balloons into a huge outstanding in no time.
Moreover, interest payment is one of the tiny leakages that will have long-term impact on our ability to save.
Start early but small
According to Figure 1 below, a person who starts investing RM12,000 today with no additional new contributions thereafter, will need an investment that generates 10% per annum to have RM130,016 twenty-five years from now.
However, another individual who started with RM6,000 (50% lesser) would require an investment that is 50% less risky (5% per annum) throughout the same time period, to generate RM134,863. The trick is to cultivate the discipline of adding RM200 a month to the savings pot.
It’s much easier to save a smaller amount than wait for your capital to become significant, as smaller amounts can also grow to become substantial.
Stay ahead of inflation
A person who invests his savings in a way that is right and in-line with his risk capacity, will see his wealth grow and become inflation-proof in the long run.
If you do nothing about inflation, you will find it tougher to maintain your lifestyle. This is due to your shrinking purchasing power, and since it is more likely that your income level will stay stagnant or grow slowly, you will then find that your freedom will be limited by your purchasing power.
The only way to give our wealth some chance to at least maintain its purchasing power is to put it to work.
When you invest, you must bear in mind to invest in instruments that are suitable with your risk profile and is regulated at the same time.
Work on your investment literacy
A person in the middle-income group may have some disposable income, which they would want to invest, after taking care of their lifestyle.
However, be aware of scammers who are out to ‘steal’ our money, influence us to make bad investment decisions, resulting in losses or wasted opportunity.
It is therefore important to have a basic knowledge of investment literacy to conduct appropriate due diligence on investment proposal that is presented to us.
Financial planning is not for the cheapskate
One misconception people have is that when we embrace financial planning, we will have to accept a frugal lifestyle.
However, the whole point of financial planning is to put the aspirations and life goals of a person at the core; as such, it’s rather counter intuitive if you will have to live a frugal lifestyle.
If you embrace financial planning, what you’ll essentially do is look at your personal finance in totality, make decisions that are smarter and less attached to your urge and emotions for instant gratification.
It doesn’t mean you have to eat lesser, or not go out with your friends. We all need a life to build our network.
All said and done, we need to go through a process to manage our financial affairs to ensure that at the end of the day, we will have enough ‘financial muscles’ to help us achieve our life goals.
About the author
Kevin Neoh is a NextGen Money Coach who works with people to help them transform their relationship with money to improve their lives with the money they have. Kevin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.kevinneoh.my.