By Martin A. Smith, CRPC®, AIFA®

The winter holiday season offers a great incentive for making personal financial planning a priority. The months leading up to the gifting holidays are usually the time when people begin identifying items to purchase. Afterward, we tend to shift into planning mode by making resolutions about things we intend on doing, or changing certain behaviors. It’s probably safe to say that completing a financial plan –and sticking to it- makes the annual Top 10 list of the most important things to accomplish in the New Year.

Forming and maintaining good financial habits is what makes financial planning successful. Just as eating healthy and exercising are essential in maintaining good physical health, likewise, having a financial plan and habitually implementing the principles and practices of a financial plan is necessary in order to maintain good financial health.

A well written financial plan takes an in-depth and comprehensive look at a persons’ lifestyle, which includes their values, goals and dreams. It should provide enough insight into your financial life so that a financial advisor is able to provide professional guidance about debt management, savings, getting expenses under control, estate planning, life insurance, portfolio management, college planning and retirement. There are so many aspects of a comprehensive financial plan that it could take years to see the fruit of one’s labor and diligence.

Financial planning takes discipline, a characteristic that many people need during the holidays. How should you discipline yourself? Discipline to not overspend, and to save money by diligently searching for bargains and holiday discounts. Discipline to once and for all fill out that long life insurance application, or to fill out a College 529 Plan for your children versus filling out an instant credit application for purchasing an item that will depreciate in value and one which you can truly do without.

Once the gifting holidays has passed and the New Year begins, you will have to continue to discipline yourself to conform your way of living to the measures outlined in your financial plan. This is what makes the discipline of financial planning a gift.

Despite the discipline, time and patience, financial planning is living on purpose and by design. It is identifying a predetermined worthwhile goal that is achievable. It will alter the course of your life in such a way that will significantly increase the chance of obtaining your goals, living out your values and fulfilling your dreams. It is a way of living, and quality of life that becomes your new reality, and your former way of living should pale by comparison. Financial planning is a responsible and intentional act for you to shape your life and paint a portrait of what you want your future to look like. Financial planning is not only a gift to yourself, but also to your heirs. It is a good habit that your children are likely to learn from and follow.

This holiday season, don’t make a financial planning a mere “resolution.” Cultivate the character of financial planning and incorporate this discipline as a life commitment. It will prove to be the gift that keeps on giving.

Martin A. Smith is the President of Wealthcare Financial Group, Inc., a wealth management and investment advisory firm located in Bowie, Maryland. He is also the Editor of AnswersAboutWealth.com, a financial educational blog that provides trusted advice by professional advisors.™ 

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