Successful financial planning means establishing goals, using the right tools and updating the plan to ensure it continues to meet your needs.
Some of the most useful tools can be health, dental, life and disability insurance, all of which help protect families and preserve assets.
“Financial planning is crucial for everyone. Defining goals for each stage of your life, whether it’s college or retirement, and outlining how you will reach those goals helps ensure success,” says Dan Danford, founder of Family Investment Center.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
The financial responsibilities of a single person are very different than those of a parent with three young children or a middle-aged couple who plan to retire in three years. In each scenario, individuals need to determine which tools will best help them achieve their goals.
Health and dental insurance are important to people in every phase of life. Securing adequate coverage not only protects your health — it can protect your assets and keep your financial plan on track if a catastrophe occurs.
“A single accident or severe illness could cost thousands and prevent an individual from being able to work, so health insurance should be a priority,” says Carol Harnett, president of the Council for Disability Awareness.
An Ounce of Prevention Saves Money
If basic health coverage doesn’t include vision and dental, these can be added on to provide important preventive care that helps keep expenses at bay.
“Employer-provided dental benefits provide affordable access to care to meet immediate dental needs through early diagnosis. They also help prevent future dental disease, along with its pain and cost,” says Dr. Jim Barrett, clinical director at Assurant Employee Benefits, which specializes in employee benefits and services.
Vision checkups not only ensure good eye health, they are critical for success at school and at work.
No one likes to think about becoming disabled, yet accidents and critical illnesses can happen anywhere, anytime and to anyone, and result in loss of income.
“One out of four people in their 20s will become disabled at some point,” said Mary Beth Storjohann, founder of Workable Wealth, which works with Generation Y clients. “They think that disability insurance is just for older people, but don’t think about pregnancy complications or cancer.”
According to the Council for Disability Awareness, the average group long-term disability claim lasts 34.6 months. Disability insurance can help ease the pressure of worrying about returning to work immediately, and allow the individual to concentrate on getting well.
Planning for Others
Life insurance is a great way for families with children to ensure that youngsters’ needs will be met if one or both parents were to die.
And while single twenty-somethings may think life insurance isn’t necessary, they could leave their own parents financially strapped if they co-signed any loans for their children.
Don’t Be Distracted From Long-Term Goals
Yes, parents want to protect their children from financial hardship, but they also have a responsibility to take care of themselves. While it’s nice to help with tuition or a down payment on a new house, don’t dip into retirement savings to do so, Storjohann warns.
“(Students) can take out loans for education, but you can’t take out loans for retirement,” she says.
Decoding Disability Coverage
Take the guesswork out of disability coverage with these tips from Carol Harnett, president of the Council for Disability Awareness:
Understand what is offered in employee benefits and look into “buy-up” options that will provide greater coverage.
Know that some states mandate that employers provide short-term disability coverage and set parameters for what is included.
If neither benefit option is available, individual insurance policies are an option.
Look for additional choices. If you belong to a professional organization, you may be able to buy disability insurance at competitive rates.
To find out more about long-term and short-term disability plans, as well as other insurance options, visit www.assurantemployeebenefits.com.
A Financial Primer for Grads
Because it’s never too soon to start planning a secure financial future, it’s a good idea for college grads to begin as soon as they land their first job. Not only does it teach them responsibility, but it lessens the burden on their parents, says Mary Beth Storjohann, a financial planner with Gen Y clients. She suggests graduates:
Sock away at least $25 to $50 from each paycheck in a savings account.
Take full advantage of employee benefits such as matching 401(k) contributions. Not participating in these plans is leaving money on the table.
Start a repayment plan for student loans, carefully manage any other debts and live within their means.
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