How to Set Financial Priorities and Develop an Action Plan

When it comes to managing your money, you may feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions. Retirement savings, student loans, housing costs, and the list goes on.

"What about the cash reserve? What about sending children to college?" says Douglas Boneparth, a Certified Financial Planner and CFP Board Ambassador.

Boneparth says these competing priorities can take a toll on both your financial confidence and your ability to reach your goals.

A recent survey by the CFP Board looked at what they call tentative savers – people who set money aside regularly but don’t feel they’re saving enough. In fact, 7 out of 10 believe they are behind in terms of meeting their retirement goals, perhaps because other expenses are getting in the way.

"Typically I see retirement getting put on the back burner because debt seems to always be top of mind for people," Boneparth says.

And not just credit card debt.  Many of those in their 20s and 30s are also struggling to pay off student loans.

"That's really putting an albatross around this group's ability to save. That's money that otherwise would have been put away for a rainy day or other financial goals," Boneparth says.

So how do you tackle all of these competing priorities and still manage to make progress on any of them? Experts say the first step is to create a concrete plan of action, either on your own or with a financial professional.

"A financial plan will provide you with a road map for making smart financial decisions and it can increase the likelihood that you will actually achieve your financial goals," Boneparth says.

Boneparth breaks down the process into three steps: Identify your goals; figure out what each of them will cost and what your timeframe is; and then rank them by what is most important to you and your family right now. 

For more information or to find a Certified Financial Planner, visit letsmakeaplan.org.

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