Back to basics: Why a financial strategy is so important

Many of us are familiar with the expression, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” As an Agent with New York Life, I can assure you that when it comes to financial goals and objectives, this old adage rings true. In fact, it might be more relevant than ever.

It isn’t always easy for some Americans to make financial headway. With pensions in decline and interest rates starting to inch up near historic lows, it usually takes persistence and sound planning to get ahead.

Not sure how to begin? That’s OK. It’s easy to become overwhelmed if you think about all your needs at once. Instead, try taking it one step at a time, starting with the basics.

Build an emergency fund

No matter where you are in life, it’s important to set aside 8-10 months of living expenses. You don’t have to do it all at once, but every dollar you save today is a dollar you won’t have to borrow if something unexpected happens.

Protect your home and family

Most of us have people who depend on us to keep a roof over their heads and food on their plates. That’s a big responsibility, but it’s one life insurance can help you meet, even if something tragic takes you away. You can start with an affordable term life plan at first, then add more coverage as your needs and budget grow.

Prepare for major expenses like college

As a parent or grandparent, you naturally want the best for your loved ones. Now’s the time to start a college or wedding fund so they won’t have to go into debt to make their dreams for the future come true.

Get ready for retirement

There are plenty of ways to set aside money for retirement: 401(k)s, IRAs and fixed deferred annuities, just to name a few. But they all have one thing in common: The sooner you start, the better off you’ll be in the long run. Try to increase your contributions in time — perhaps 1% with each raise. Or, if you are 50 or older, look into some of the catch-up provisions that might allow you to contribute even more.

While the economy is starting to grow, it makes sense to stay focused on the things that matter. A sound financial strategy can help us accomplish many things, but perhaps the most important is making sure we never lose sight of them again.

Claire Damgaard is an agent with New York Life Insurance Co. in Dubuque. To learn more, contact her at 563-581-5702 or

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