According to certified financial planner Joe O’Boyle, from Voya Financial Planning, the best way to grow your wealth isn’t to earn more money, or invest, or save a set percentage of your salary each month.
It’s to have a plan.
“Create a formal, written, financial plan that includes a list of your financial goals and put together an automatic savings program specific to achieving each objective,” O’Boyle told Business Insider. “After all, ‘a goal without a plan is just a wish.'”
He recalled a young married couple who came by his office for their first meeting with a financial planner. “They had been working on curbing their spending habits and had just paid off all of their credit card debt over the course of the previous year,” he said. “They were excited to be debt-free and were looking to get started building and growing their wealth.”
O’Boyle helped them determine their financial goals and rank them in order of importance. Here were their top five:
1. Having an emergency reserve fund with six months of expenses set aside.
2. Putting money away for their retirement.
3. Saving up for a down payment on a home.
4. Saving for their daughter’s college education.
5. Having some money set aside to help care for ageing parents.
After reviewing the couple’s monthly cash flow, they decided the couple could save 20% of their net take home pay to put towards achieving their goals. They set up an automatic savings program, so the day after their paychecks were deposited into their checking accounts twice a month, 20% of their pay went from their checking account into investment accounts specific to achieving each of their goals.
“By setting up an automatic electronic deposit program, this simplified their saving and budget process,” O’Boyle said. “‘This is so easy, we don’t even notice that the money is being saved. Why didn’t we start doing this years ago?'”
“By living within their means and following a formal written plan based on their goals, they began saving and investing consistently. Their money could now grow and compound towards achieving their financial objectives.”
This article was written by Business Insider without the involvement of Merrill Lynch.