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Bottom Line Up Front

  • A financial plan can help you choose and make progress toward both your short-term and long-term financial goals.
  • Start with an emergency fund and a strategy to pay down debt. The next step will focus on long-range planning for things such as retirement or a college savings account.  
  • A professional financial planner can help you get started or work with you through the process.

Time to Read

5 minutes

June 7, 2022

Are you confident that you’re on track for the financial future you want, or does it feel like you’re guessing about what to do next? Maybe you have a clear picture of what you want to accomplish, but the details of how to make it happen are a little fuzzy. Creating a financial plan can help bring things into focus—it’s like a roadmap to help you figure out how to reach your financial goals.

Financial planning involves deciding on the goals you want to achieve and making sure you have the “what-ifs” covered. This can help guide you through key decisions in life and make you less at risk from setbacks and financial hardships down the line. You can feel more confident about financial decisions when you have a plan to guide you.

Your personal financial plan might cover a number of areas, from managing debt and saving for the future to building wealth and protecting your money. Consider the following topics as you map out your financial plan on your own or with help from a financial advisor.

Emergency Fund

Building a strong financial foundation starts with saving for emergencies. When you have a safety net for unplanned expenses, you don’t have to worry about throwing your whole financial situation out of whack. You can be confident that your personal finances are ready for a car breakdown, home repairs, medical bills or other emergencies that pop up.

Make your plan:

It’s okay to start small with an emergency fund—putting $50 in a savings account just for emergencies is a good starting point. You might work up to saving $1,000 and then set goals to save enough to have 3 to 6 months’ worth of living expenses set aside in a bank account. Use our Emergency Savings Calculator to see how much you may need to save.

Debt Repayment

Do you know how much debt you currently have (credit cards, student loans, auto loans, mortgage, etc.) and how long it will take to pay off each debt at your current rate of payment? It’s important to make a long-term plan for debt repayment so you can focus your efforts on the most efficient ways to reduce your debt. This might include tackling high interest rate debts first or loan consolidation.

Make your plan:

Create a list of all your loan balances, credit card debt and interest rates so you can see where you stand today and find ways to make a dent in your debt. For example, you might make extra payments on your loan with the highest interest rate when your cash flow allows. A financial advisor can help you review your debt and create a plan to become debt-free. Use our Debt Consolidation Calculator to find the best way to pay off your credit cards.

Retirement Planning

Spending time today to plan your path to retirement can provide you financial success in the future. Getting started is the most important step you can take—it’s never too early or too late to save for retirement! The key is to continue saving consistently and make retirement savings a priority in your budget. Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, offer tax planning benefits that can help your investment portfolio grow faster. As you near retirement, you’ll want to set a strategy for tapping retirement assets. 

Make your plan:

If you have a 401(k) through work, contribute at least enough to take advantage of employer matching funds (if offered). You may also want to consider opening an IRA to save money for retirement. Your financial plan should outline your retirement savings goals and ways to boost your savings (for example, increasing what you put in every year or when you get a bonus or raise). Run the numbers using our Retirement Interest Calculator or review your retirement plans with a financial planner.

College Savings

Parents and guardians face the challenge of balancing multiple financial demands, including your own retirement and future health care costs as well as education expenses for your dependents. Having a financial plan helps ensure you’re taking the right steps to address all areas of your financial life. Choosing the right college savings vehicle and planning ahead to make use of financial aid, loans and scholarships can help make college more affordable.

Make your plan:

Determine how much you want to save for college and the best way to grow your savings. Our College Savings Calculator can help you figure how much you’ll need to save.

Insurance Protection

Insurance is essential to protect your family and your financial future. Having health insurance, car insurance and homeowners or renters insurance can help protect you when you need it. You may consider options for life and disability insurance, which can help protect your family’s financial security if something happens to you.

Make your plan:

Review your insurance coverage, especially if you’ve had any major milestones or life changes in your family. A total risk assessment with an insurance agent can make sure you have the right level of coverage.

Medical and Long-Term Care

You never know what the future may hold—but it helps to be prepared for anything. What if you or a loved one have major medical issues or need assisted living or nursing home care? Making decisions at the last minute about long-term care can be stressful and emotionally difficult, and the costs can drain your family’s net worth quickly. 

Make your plan:

You may want to explore options for long-term care insurance to help pay for needs such as nursing home care. You may also decide to write an advance care directive regarding your wishes for medical care and name a power of attorney to make financial decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so.

Take control of your short-term and long-term goals with a financial plan for the next 5, 10 or more years. Working with a financial advisor can help uncover more ways to save, invest and reach financial independence. Learn more about financial planning with Navy Federal Investment Group.1

Next Steps Next Steps

  1. Establish accounts that will serve your financial plan - start with an emergency fund if you don’t already have one.
  2. Navy Federal’s Family Finance Essentials can help you identify and sort through short- and long-term goals for your money.
  3. For help setting up a formal financial plan, meet with a Navy Federal financial advisor. 



Navy Federal Financial Group, LLC (NFFG) is a licensed insurance agency. Non-deposit investments, brokerage, and advisory products are only sold through Navy Federal Investment Services, LLC (NFIS), a member of FINRA/SIPC and an SEC-registered investment advisory firm. NFIS is a wholly owned subsidiary of NFFG. Insurance products are offered through NFFG and NFIS. These products are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guaranteed or obligations of Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU), are not offered, recommended, sanctioned, or encouraged by the federal government, and may involve investment risk, including possible loss of principal. Deposit products and related services are provided by NFCU. Digital Investor offered through NFIS. Financial Advisors are employees of NFFG, and they are employees and registered representatives of NFIS. NFIS and NFFG are affiliated companies under the common control of NFCU. Call 1-877-221-8108 for further information.

This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.