Financial Needs Analysis

Financial Needs Anaysis (FNA) is defined as a process to identify individual financial needs in order to strategise an investment plan that meet such needs and financial goals. Before I go into details about FNA process, let me explain the three broad categories of financial needs;

(i) Accumulation Needs It is defined as a future financial need that one desire to set aside. The motivation to accumulate a sum of money in future include children education, starting a business, property investment, buying a car, retire early or giving to charity.

(ii) Retirement Needs It is defined as financial need that provide fund to support our life after our retirement. When we retire, our pension or social security benefits begin but our earned income ceases. Our working expenses reduce but our leisure and medical expenses increase.

(iii) Protection Needs It is defined as financial obligations that we need to fulfil upon death, disablement, contracting critical illness, loss of or damage to property and/or when a personal liability arises.

Having a general idea about the three main categories of financial needs, let me go through the process of Financial Needs Analysis:

(1) Fact finding –> (2) Identify and quantify financial needs –> (3) Identify investment products that meet financial goals –> (4) Periodical review of financial needs

1. Fact Finding

Gather personal details, employment details, number of dependents, financial information, existing insurance policies, retirement needs, saving goals, objective and investment preference. Personal details such as age, gender, martial status and smoking habits will offer us a preliminary assessment of the types of financial products that will likely suitable for us. Employment status enables us to determine if income protection is needed for high risk job, and the ability to commit long to medium term investment product. The number of dependents will determine the amount of additional financial support. The more dependent we have, the greater the number of years we have to support them, which means we need more life insurance and income protection. Financial information such as monthly income will help to determine the continuing income needed in the event of death, disability or retirement.

Expenditures information will help to determine the level of income needed for the family to survive in the event of premature death of the breadwinners, and to estimate the funds available for investment. Assets and liabilities information helps to determine net worth, which enable us to decide on the amount of funds for investment or to adjust our lifestyles to reduce liabilities. Existing insurance policy will serve as a starting point for any further insurance products. The objectives and investment preferences will help to determine our attitude towards investment risk, which classified into Risk Averter, Cautious, Balanced and Risk Seeker. Retirement needs information enables us to determine the monthly amount in today’s dollar that we and our dependents need to live on retirement. Generally, most singles need about 50% to 60% of their pre-retirement income to maintain same living standard after retirement. The percentage increase to 60% to 70% for married couples with one retiree. Saving goals information helps to determine if the funds earmarked for various financial goals are adequate.

2. Identifying and Quantifying Financial Needs

After we have gathered all the data through facts finding, the next steps of FNA process is to analyse the data to identify and quantify the financial needs. We should pick up weaknesses that can negatively affect the financial objectives. For examples; amount of debts, investment portfolio, existing insurance products, living within means, investment time horizon, liquidity need, children education and risk profiles. Determine which objectives should be given higher priority. Three factors should be considered when analysing objectives:

  • Establish if the objective is short-term or long-term. Short-term objective is more appropriate for retired person who may wish to increase income produced from investment capital. Long-term objective is more suitable for someone who want sufficient fund to send his new-born child to university in future. However, objectives can be both long and short term.
  • Establish if the objective is for the benefit of us or for others, such as dependants. For example, the objective may be passing our estate to our grandchildren in the event of death. Alternatively, the objective may be to retire early.
  • Prioritise the objectives. For example, we may want to invest a second property but to achieve this objective; it may detriment a reasonable income in retirement. It is important to tackle each financial need and uncover those needs that need immediate attention.

Once all the financial needs are identified and prioritised, each need must be quantified. The ways to quantify retirement, protection and accumulation needs are different. There are two methods to quantifying retirement needs, namely the replacement ratio method and expense method. As for protection needs, the method include determine the sum of total liabilities and immediate expenses required at the time of death and the amount needed for dependants as long as needed. Multiple approach and needs approach are two common approach used to quantify the amount needed for dependants. For accumulation needs, the approach is to find the future value of the target amount taking into consideration of inflation. After we have quantified the data, proceed to next step to identify investment products that meet financial objectives.

3. Identify Investment Products that meet Financial Objectives

Points to consider includes investment objectives, product suitability, affordability, taxation, tax relief, rick tolerance, pension schemes, prioritisation and effect of inflation and time value of money. Investment Instrument that meets accumulation and retirement needs includes Money Market Securities, Fixed Income Securities, Equity Investment, Derivative Instruments, Property, Unit Trusts, Whole Life Insurance, Endowment, Investment-Linked Products and Annuities. Investment products that meet protection needs include Term Insurance, Whole Life Insurance, Endowment Insurance, Investment-linked Life Insurance, Riders, Critical illness Insurance, Long Term Care Insurance, Medical Expense Insurance and Managed Healthcare Insurance and Disability Income Insurance. General Insurance products that meet protection needs include Fire Insurance, Household/House owner Insurance, Personal Accident Insurance and Personal Liability Insurance.

4. Periodical Review of Financial Needs

The process of identifying financial needs does not stop with implementation. Our financial needs may change over time. It affects our initial investment plan, as they may no longer be adequate. For example, a steep fall in price of equities would signal that a review of our investment portfolio and saving is required if we invested substantially in equities. Regular review of financial needs ensure we stay on course to our financial goals.

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The Financial Products to Be Wary Of

Nowadays, it seems like there’s a financial product for everything – home insurance, credit card protection, critical illness cover even weather insurance. Whilst many products are created with the financial well being of its customers at heart there’s also many products that are misadvertised, missold and sometimes not really necessary.

Life insurance, for example, is often touted as one of the most important financial products on the market today. For people with children, a home or any kind of debt this certainly is the case as making sure your loved ones aren’t left to pay bills in your absence is important. That said, people who do not have dependents or debts of any kind may be better off without life insurance and should take time to consider whether the product they are being sold is really right for them.

When it comes to credit cards, paying off your debt in monthly or lump sums is very important. People with numerous financial commitments or a poor credit history are regularly offered payment protection as a back up in case they cannot meet or even forget to pay of their credit at regular intervals. Some people however, have this unwittingly added to their credit card bills so it’s important to discuss whether this is a product that suits you when taking out your account as well as making sure there aren’t any unspoken added extras.

Finally, one of the biggest causes of complaints to the UK financial ombudsman is income payment protection. Shrouded in small print, many customers of IPP have recently reported being unable to claim on their insurance as the level of cover they have is not sufficient. income payment protection works to safeguard individuals mortgage, loan or other debt repayments in the event of ill health or unemployment. Don’t skip on the small print when taking out a financial product like IPP as it could save you a lot of hassle in the long run!

The Best Financial Product Ever Created – Credit Cards

It has dawned to me that people have taken for granted the use of credit cards. One day, I was in a bank and the person standing in front of me was complaining to the bank employee. He insisted that he has received a pre-approved card and wants it to be returned and deactivated immediately. The bank employee simply explained that being a valued customer, the bank has chosen him to receive a pre-approved gold card. The bank employee further explains that the card was free from any annual fees for the first year. If he ever so decides that he doesn’t want to use the card, he can simply discontinue or have the credit card cut. But the guy insisted that he wants to return the card today and have it deactivated immediately. He explained that he had heard a lot of stories people drowning in credit card debts.

As I was standing behind him, I couldn’t help myself but be sad for this guys situation. He was given something wonderful but he thinks and focuses that a Credit card is something evil and it would probably bring him enormous debt that he wanted to disposed of it right away. I believe credit cards is the exact opposite. These so called “plastics” were made to make life simpler, convenient, and give us opportunity to spend in cases of emergency. Although some consider them to be a double edge sword, it’s actually our knowledge and discipline that needs to be checked when using it. A few tips on how to they should be used:

1. Use your Card to pay for something that you already have cash to pay for. Instead of carrying your cash every single day, you bring along with you your credit card for convenience. But never pay for something or a service without setting aside the cash to pay it off when your due date arrives. Once you start using a Credit Card expecting NOT to pay the full balance in it’s due date, that could be the start of accumulating credit card debt.

2. You can actually extend the number of days of your due date. When you will receive your billing statement which usually arrives 2 weeks before your due date to settle it, you can actually start using your credit card at that time. This would mean that those purchases you made right after you receive your billing statement for that month would mean that it would be included in your next cycle of billing. This would mean you have extended the number of days till your next billing due date.

3. Don’t completely think that these cards sole purpose if for purchasing things that we need. These cards can actually be used a source of funds for business. Let us say you have a friend from another country who is looking for a laptop. It so happen that laptops in the United States are typically much cheaper compared to the other countries. So you intend to buy one and sell it off with a small markup to your friend. Instead of putting out cash you can use your card to purchase it, travel and sell it to your friend, come back and probably that would just be in time for you to pay off your Credit Card bill. You can even purchase that item by amortizing it and paying in small amounts monthly while you sell your item and get paid with the full amount in cash.

There are really a lot of advantages of using credit cards that’s why I would certainly consider this to be the best financial product ever created. Just have discipline in using this wonderful product and not fall into a Credit Card debt.