From the AARP website: Creating a Financial Plan: An Overview
You wouldn't venture off into an unknown country without a map at your side. By the same token, it's not a good idea to forge a path into your financial future without some idea of where you're going. Just like the international traveler, you need to carry a map with you at all times, and refer to it often. That map is called your Financial Plan.
What You Should Know
Your financial plan can be as simple or as detailed as you want it to be. Consult with us, your financial adviser, to help you write a more formal plan. Whatever form it takes, your financial plan can help you chart your fiscal course over the next five or ten years, or it can help you make sure you have enough money to buy your next car or pay for your next vacation. How far into the future you look is completely up to you. Of course, the more you plan, the more you'll achieve.
Like any large undertaking, writing a financial plan is best done in small steps:
Step 1: Get organized. You'll have an easier time conducting your financial affairs and writing your financial plan if you take some time now to organize your financial papers. That way, all your important documents will be at your fingertips when you need them.
Step 2: Set your financial goals. Maybe you're dreaming of a European vacation or planning to buy a new house. Maybe a child's college years - or your own retirement - loom in your future. Now is a good time to start thinking about the financial choices you'll want to make in the future.
Step 3: Evaluate your cash flow. It's very difficult to develop a financial plan unless you know how much income you receive now and where you spend your money. This information will help you decide if you need to earn more in the future and how you'll want to spend that additional cash.
Step 4: Calculate your net worth. Your regular income and expenses are only part of your financial picture. You also need to identify everything you own (assets) and everything you owe (liabilities) before you can tell how realistic your financial goals are.
Step 5: Make assumptions about the future. Change is inevitable. That's why it's important to anticipate and plan for changes - like inflation, retirement, illness, or divorce - that could affect your financial status.
Step 6: Adopt a financial strategy. For each of your financial goals, you'll need to determine how much money you'll need to reach your goal, where you will get the money, and how long it will take to earn it.
As you begin to take the steps necessary to reach financial security, we will be there to help you..