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Personal Financial Planning – How to Set Financial Goals for Your Future

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Much has been said and written about the sorry state general of financial literacy among people, both local and globally. According to financial literacy platform Multiply, almost 70% of Malaysians are in need of financial literacy support.

“Financial planning” seems to be a popular catchphrase in recent years. The 7th of October is even recognised as “World Financial Planning Day”, which began four years ago.

The purpose? To raise awareness about the importance of financial planning.

If I used the term financial planning with my grandparents, they would say “Don’t worry so much, just work hard and be honest in your trade”. This shows how the concept of Financial Planning is fairly modern, with such an ideology being so foreign back in those days.

Chances are, if you asked someone who is in their 60s or 70s today what financial planning means, there’s a high chance they’ll say it’s having insurance!

However, financial planning is the process of developing strategies to help people manage their financial affairs to meet life goals.

What constitutes a good financial plan? First and foremost, it involves taking stock of your assets, liabilities, investments, income, expenses and cash flow. The next part is important because it involves knowing the right strategies in order to achieve future goals.

It also helps to break down goals according to priority and affordability. It then requires constant monitoring because we know circumstances in life will change – for both good or bad.

Financial planning is clearly not as simple as signing up for a product. It’s a commitment to yourself and your family to ensure that your financial goals are achieved.

In my observation and dealings with clients, I have found that the challenges in developing and sticking to a financial plan are summed up below (the list is not exhaustive):

  • Lack of priority – due to busyness at work and family commitments. The fear of the unknown future can be very daunting and it is easy to sweep this aside
  • Rising consumerism – shopping and spending is extremely easy. You can purchase literally anything in the world online and get it delivered to your doorstep. If left unchecked, would there be funds in the event of an emergency, let alone savings for the future?
  • Escalating prices of real estate – one of the social issues that the government is trying to tackle is the issue of affordable housing
  • Low interest rates – At the point of writing, the Overnight Policy Rate (OPR) rate is 1.75% which translates to Bank fixed deposits of 1.6% to 1.9% per annum
  • Salary vs inflation – not on par with rising cost of living

All these seem to indicate that the younger generation is already at a disadvantage in achieving the same levels of success compared to their parents.

For example, if your parents could afford to send you overseas when you were in university, can you confidently say you will be able to do the same for your children today?

Having a financial plan is akin to being prepared for battle. You will know your limitations, ability to optimise your resources and your odds of winning.

In the case of an investment portfolio, the more you spend time monitoring, the more invested you will be.

For example, if you exercise daily, you’ll be much more conscious of your lifestyle, choice of food and calorie intake.

The same can be said for a financial plan when you monitor it on a regular basis, which will lead to you becoming wired to make more informed financial decisions.

Too much focus on any one area such as savings, investments, or insurance, may adversely affect the balance of your financial plan.

The topic of investments alone is so vast, with plenty of choices available today, and is often confusing for consumers.

Each platform has its pros and cons and it’s easy to get distracted by the whole process and only see things from that one perspective. Having a macro view is important and most consumers are not trained to do that.

Let me give you an example. It’s highly possible to have false confidence knowing you invested in a portfolio that is performing at 15% per annum.

However, if the amount invested was RM10,000, and even IF this portfolio could consistently perform for the next 10 years at 15%, the future value is only RM45,000. In the larger scheme of things, is that total of RM45,000 a meaningful solution in terms of the end goal to fund a child’s tertiary education and/or your retirement? Investment should be a means to an end, not the end in itself.

Successful investment requires time, strategy and consistent positive returns to be favourable.

There’s also the danger of neglecting risk management. An employee or an entrepreneur’s greatest asset is their ability to earn and also their potential future earnings. This asset can be severely affected due to a major health crisis.

Have you considered income replacement in your financial plan?

Most companies would have decent employment benefits that would cover you in the event of death and hospitalisation. However what happens if an employee is unable to contribute 100% to his/her job due to a health condition? Will your employer be happy to retain such an individual?

In summary:

  • Work hard and smart in your trade
  • Manage potential risks that could happen in your working years
  • Look for opportunities to invest (in products/services registered with the Securities Commission Malaysia)
  • Monitor your financial plan and goals diligently
  • Seek out a Licensed Financial Planner to get a second opinion on your finances
  • Develop an estate plan as an act of love to your loved ones/charities

With proper monitoring and guidance, you can be on the right track to achieve your financial goals.

About the Author

Kam Teik Guan is a Licensed Financial Planner registered with the Securities Commission Malaysia. He believes that holistic financial planning should be experienced by all because no one plans to fail, but more often than not, fails to plan. He enjoys listening to music in his free time. He can be contacted at kam.teik.guan@ipp.com.my

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