John Lowe of MoneyDoctors.ie explains financial planning in a nutshell, essential for every walk of life, using a simple analogy.

If you were driving from Copenhagen to Zagreb after Covid times, of course, and you don't have one of those wizard satellite navigation systems nor your mobile phone for Google Maps, you would not choose a road at random and hope for the best, would you?

No, you wouldn’t. You would plan your journey. If you encountered diversions, you would get out the map and decide on a new route. Throughout the journey, you would check on your progress.

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Your financial plan should have the same qualities. That is to say, it should help you reach your destination, make your journey as fast as possible and stop you from wasting time, energy and, of course, money.

Bear in mind the following principles when deciding what your financial priorities should be:

1. For most people, their greatest asset is their income
Unless you are fortunate enough to receive a windfall, it is almost certainly your income that you will use to achieve your financial objectives. Under the circumstances, you don’t want to risk it and you don’t want to waste it.

There are all sorts of inexpensive insurance policies designed to protect your income. Incidentally, anyone under retirement age is 20 times more likely to be unable to work for a prolonged period because of sickness than they are to die, which is why I keep droning on about income protection often being more important than life cover.

2. Personal debt
By which I mean everything from store cards to mortgages, will be the biggest drain on your income. If you’ve borrowed money (and obviously there are many circumstances under which this makes excellent sense), then you should make it a priority to repay your loans as quickly as possible. Always check the interest rates and shop around.

Photo: Getty

3. It’s vital to have a safety net or emergency fund
A rainy day fund (3 to 6 months joint net annual income for those emergencies, sudden loss of income or investment opportunities) to deal with those little trials, tribulations and extra expenses that life often throws our way. Also, you want to make as big a return as possible from your investments.

4. If you’ve got a good, secure income, it doesn’t actually matter what other assets you possess. Emotionally, it’s nice to have the security of owning your own home. Financially, it certainly makes sense. But, actually, an investment that is just as good and maybe better is a really decent pension plan. With a good pension plan you can leave work early and, if you live to 100 or more, never have to worry about money again.

I certainly would not depend on the State pension either – odds are that in 20 years’ time, it simply won’t be there! To maximise your tax relief on your pension contributions, these are the thresholds – if for example you are between 30 and 40 years of age, you can invest up to 20% of your net relevant earnings to avail of the juicy tax reliefs...

Age Limits

Up to 30 years of age

15% of net relevant earnings

30 up to 40 years of age

20% of net relevant earnings

40 up to 50 years of age

25% of net relevant earnings

50 years plus

30% of net relevant earnings

55 years plus

35% of net relevant earnings

Over 60 years

40% of net relevant earnings

5. Know thyself.
There’s no point in setting financial objectives that you’re going to find impossible to attain. Your financial objectives may involve modest changes to your behaviour, but they shouldn’t require a complete change in your personality!

The most important word when it comes to financial planning ? Start!

For more information click on John Lowe's profile above or on his website.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ.