So what role does personal financial planning play? It can be quite a lot to think about, but in essence, it simply asks the question of “What is personal financial planning”. Another question that it asks is “What is in it for me?”. Anyway, what should your personal financial plan consists of? The following information is a guide for the individual and one should take note of individual circumstances in their own context.

Basically, personal financial planning will take into account the following areas: budgeting, savings and investment, insurance, management of “big-ticket” items, cash-flow management. A good financial planning book will let you know that a good financial plan starts with budgeting, and it is true. A budget enables you to decide how much you can spend and keep. Of course, the main idea is to ensure that your outgoings (expenses) do not exceed your incomings (income). This will create excess funds with which to save and invest.

Savings and investment are similar, yet different in its objectives. Both are money left over; after your expenses are deducted from your income, and kept for certain objectives. But that is where the similarity ends. The difference between both lies mainly in their objectives and time frame. Essentially, savings are meant to be and can be withdrawn at a moment’s notice or within a short time-frame. The returns from savings tend to be quite low. Just think of how much your bank savings account can get you. Investments tend to be less liquid (depending on the type of investment instruments) and have a longer time frame. The returns from investment can be much higher than savings, but so is the risk level. Depending on the type of investment, one may lose even the capital sum.

Insurance must definitely be part of robust personal financial planning. A big portion of the role of personal financial planning is to make sure that one has the ability to carry on living in case of some unfortunate events, both big and small. In essence, insurance provides a safety net to provide some form of financial assistance when one meets with events like accidents, disabilities or illnesses. One major way which insurance can help is that it also provides peace of mind, knowing that financial assistance is at hand in the event when things do not go the way it should be. This peace of mind leaves one with the energy and confidence to move forward to do the things we need to do.

Think very carefully when deciding on purchase for “big-ticket” items. These items could really be essentials like houses or cars for transportation. Yet other items may be considered luxury items like expensive sound systems. There is really no right or wrong answer on what are the “right” items one can purchase. Everybody buys things for for their own reasons – some which may seem totally irrational to outsiders. However, as a guide, the main rule of thumb in personal financial planning is never to put out cash for something you cannot afford.

Making purchases on credit is usually not a good idea. The credit card companies do a marvelous job of convincing us that spending on credit is alright and that we should not delay our purchases until we can afford to buy them in cash. Spending future money (that is what spending on credit means), and in the process chalking up consumer debt is really not sound. Usually, the right choice will be to delay the purchases until you can afford to buy them with the money you already have.

There are of course exceptions to this rule of thumb on financial planning. But the exceptions are not many. One main exception is the use of credit to purchase a property to stay or for investment. Not many people can afford to pay up a house purchase at one go. A person may have to wait a whole life-time if he intends to wait until he can fully pay for it in one lump-sum cash. Buying property for investment may be a good idea if you know what you are doing. The essential is that what you pay to the bank in bank loan and interests is more than offset by the returns on the property purchase. This is the concept of using “other people’s money” to make money for yourself. There are a lot more details to look at in this type of investment. So do proceed with much caution.

The role of financial planning is simply this – to allow you to follow your own personal financial plan based on your own financial and non-financial situation so that your financial objectives at various milestones of your life can be accomplished. It helps to lessen the unexpected, so that one would not meet with financial tragedies like nightmares come true.