How to Build Your Financial House From the Foundation Up

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When you draw up your financial blueprint, you’ll want the result to weather economic storms, risks that come with aging and other changes in your life.

If you’re a fan of home improvement shows, you know how this goes: The clients, usually a couple hoping to build, buy or renovate a home, are mostly focused on the aesthetics — the kitchen countertops, the bathroom tile, the light fixtures, the wainscoting.

Common Financial Weaknesses and How to Overcome Them

But, of course, there’s more to designing a home than picking the flooring or the fixtures. Without a strong foundation, sturdy walls and a dependable roof, the couple’s beautiful house won’t hold up well against the elements, age and other risk factors during the years their family lives there. Their real estate agent or contractor often has to remind them about what’s really important as they move forward.

And I have to say, I get where those pros are coming from every time — because the same holds true for building a family’s financial house. (Though I’ve yet to see an entire television network devoted to designing a financial portfolio.)

If you’re working with a financial adviser, you may have heard him or her refer to drawing up a “blueprint” for reaching your financial goals. And that’s an apt description. When you’re building your fiscal house, you’ll want to be sure you have a detailed plan that includes every aspect of your financial future and the methods and materials you’ll be using to help get you to your objectives.

Your financial portfolio — the collection of assets you’ll use to create a safe and comfortable future — should be allocated and managed in a way that helps you weather economic downturns, market volatility, fluctuating interest rates, rising inflation, risks that come with aging and other changes in your life.

Creating the blueprint for your financial house

What should your financial blueprint look like? It will be different for everyone. But a secure fiscal house will have the same basic characteristics as a well-built home.

A strong foundation

Your most stable assets typically will form the foundation of your financial portfolio. Although no investment is without risk, these are generally assets you can count on to stay solid — and provide a reliable income — when the economy or your personal finances take a hit or feel shaky. Some examples include:

  • Savings and certificates of deposit (CDs), which are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC)

  • Government bonds, which are backed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury

  • Fixed and fixed index annuities that are protected by a reputable insurance company

Sturdy walls

The “walls” of your fiscal house should be sturdy — but because they can be repaired or rebuilt more easily than the foundation, these assets don’t have to be quite as invulnerable. Investments at this level can add value to your portfolio (by providing income, income protection and diversification), but they also may be exposed to moderate risk, so there’s some potential for growth. A few examples include:

  • Corporate and municipal bonds

  • Conservative dividend investments

  • Private real estate investment trusts (REITs)

A dependable roof

Of course, you want your roof to hold up against whatever the elements might throw at it. But if it is damaged, you likely can fix or replace it without the whole house falling in — as long as the lower levels are built to last. The roof of your fiscal house represents the investments that carry the highest risk you can tolerate (both financially and emotionally). And they can help you grow your money for the future. These assets might include:

Where to start

Of course, every individual and family has different needs — and every financial plan will (or should, at least) be a little bit different to accommodate those needs. But if you’re looking for a good starting point, you may want to use the “Rule of 100” to determine how your assets should be allocated when building your fiscal house. That means taking the number 100, subtracting your age and using the difference to determine the percentage of your money you want to invest in riskier assets to maximize growth.

If Not a 60/40 Portfolio, Then What?

If, for instance, you’re 45 and in no rush to retire, you might feel comfortable investing 55% of your portfolio in stocks or ETFs. You’ll get the growth you’re looking for, but should you lose money in a market downturn, you’ll still have several years to recover.

But if you’re closer to retirement — let’s say 65 — you may want to limit the risk in your portfolio to 35% or less. You still can benefit from some growth, but with less time to recover from a market decline, you may choose to play it a bit safer.

Don’t forget ongoing maintenance

Making occasional upgrades and repairs can be an important part of maintaining your home’s value. And the same holds true for your portfolio. It can be helpful to reevaluate your investments and investing strategies at least once a year to be sure your plan stays aligned with your goals.

Over time, asset allocations may shift based on market performance, and you may need to rebalance your portfolio. You also may find that your tolerance for risk has changed, and a little remodeling is necessary. Or, if you realize your original design just isn’t functional for your family, you may want to seek a second opinion or go for a complete renovation.

You don’t have to look hard to find an example of why it’s so critical to design and maintain your fiscal house for the long haul.

Just a few short years ago, pretty much everyone’s financial portfolio was doing well thanks to an 11-year bull market. Then in March 2020, the COVID crisis rolled in and caught everyone off guard. And we all got a good reminder of how important it is to build a fiscal house that holds up against the storms we can predict — and those we can’t.

Is your fiscal house move-in ready?

One thing we’ve all learned from watching home improvement shows is that doing it yourself isn’t always the best way to go.

Similarly, some parts of investing may be doable on your own — and even fun. And you should have plenty of input into what you want from your plan.

Am I Going to Be OK in Retirement? Yes, With Focus on Five Key Areas

But you’ll likely find it makes sense to work with a pro when you’re drawing up your overall financial blueprint — or making any big choices or changes. Mistakes and oversights can be costly, especially when you’re closing in on retirement. You’ll need a portfolio that’s carefully planned to keep you secure for the many years ahead.

Kim Franke-Folstad contributed to this article.

The appearances in Kiplinger were obtained through a PR program. The columnist received assistance from a public relations firm in preparing this piece for submission to Kiplinger.com. Kiplinger was not compensated in any way.

Kurt Supe, John Culpepper and Brian Quick offer securities through cfd Investments, Inc., Registered Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA &SIPC, 2704 South Goyer Road, Kokomo, IN 46902, 765-453-9600. Kurt Supe, Andrew Drufke and Brian Quick offer advisory services through Creative Financial Designs, Inc., Registered Investment Adviser. Creative Financial Group is a separate and unaffiliated company. The CFD Companies do not provide legal or tax advice.

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