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Does your financial plan need schooling?

Featured in Focus on Finances

It’s back-to-school time. Even if your school days are long behind you, this is a perfect time to study and plot your financial future.

First, check out those well-intended financial plans we’ve put together for ourselves over the years. Even the best of them isn’t going to help if you don’t follow through. Without action, it just becomes a list that looks pretty but accomplishes nothing – kind of like that treadmill that gets more use as a clothes hanger than helping you burn off the cheeseburger you had for lunch.

Fortunately, whether we’re talking financial plans or treadmills, you’ve got the smarts to move to the head of the class when it comes to managing your money. You’ve just got to get started and then keep the momentum going. With that in mind, here are three steps to bring your financial plan back to life:

Study it. Are your basic goals and situation still the same? If not, it’s time for an update. If they are, focus on the action items from your plan. For instance, are you still driving with possibly inadequate state-mandated insurance coverage?

Did you ever set up that savings account to start stashing away some money for an emergency fund? Did you make that call to check out long-term-care insurance? Are your wills, powers of attorney and other legal documents updated? Typically, when we complete a financial plan with a client there are between six and 10 solid “to-dos.” Revisit your plan and figure out yours.

Create a list and work it. Prioritize your financial action items and write down your personal list of critical actions. It’s helpful to post that list in a place where you can see it every day, such as on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror. This list represents a commitment to action.

Mark your calendar. Both of us have a calendar to keep us on track. Use that calendar to mark some definitive deadlines with respect to your list. For example, commit to calling an estate-planning attorney by the middle of next week, or set up a financial meeting with your spouse every two months to recap your progress.

Whether it’s revisiting your plan to address cash-management challenges, tweaking your investments, developing roadmaps to dump debt, or formalizing tax- and estate-planning goals, we understand there’s a lot to 
be done.
Nothing is more frustrating than procrastinating and never getting where you want to go. So as we start another school year, seize the opportunity to become a good student of your financial plan and take steps toward making it a reality.

June Lantz Walbert and J.J. Montanaro are certified financial planners for USAA, The American Legion’s preferred provider 
of financial services. Submit questions for their “Ask the Financial Expert” column online. www.legion.org/focusonfinances

This material is for informational purposes. Consider your own financial circumstances carefully before making a decision and consult with your tax, legal or estate planning professional.USAA means United Services Automobile Association and its insurance, banking, investment and other companies. Banks Member FDIC. Investments provided by USAA Investment Management Company and USAA Financial Advisors Inc., both registered broker dealers. USAA Financial Planning Services® refers to financial planning services and financial advice provided by USAA Financial Planning Services Insurance Agency, Inc. (known as USAA Financial Insurance Agency in California), a registered investment adviser and insurance agency and its wholly owned subsidiary, USAA Financial Advisors, Inc., a registered broker dealer. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. owns the certification marks CFP® and Certified Financial Planner TM in the United States, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.

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