PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Do you know how to manage your finances? Is there something you could be doing better? These are some questions a Philadelphia-area professional wants people to think through during Financial Literacy Month.
Marc Bernstein, a fiscal therapist in Conshohocken and author of “The Fiscal Therapy Solution 1.0,” says the key to a successful financial plan is to tailor it to your specific needs and desires.
“I ask a question that I call the three-year vision question, which is, ‘If this were three years from today and you were looking back at the last three years from a professional, financial and personal basis, what would have to happen over that three-year period for you to feel that it was a successful three-year period?'” Bernstein said.
Bernstein takes an holistic approach to finances, in which he looks at the bigger picture of what it is you want out of life.
But he says circumstances change.
“And the thing is, you have to keep it in motion all the time. You have to continue to look at it because circumstances change. A little bit down change in the market can effect your goals, a little bit of a decrease of an income source,” he explained.
He says money should be a path to your goal, but not the goal itself, and the financial tools that you use – for your 401k, for example – should fit in with your ultimate plan.
“The products will fill themselves in later as solutions, but I think most people are buying products without really understanding how they fit into their overall financial plans,” Bernstein said.
He says the biggest financial issue which students seem to be illiterate about is debt.
“Because they’re bombarded with messages to buy credit cards, and before you know it, they realize they can live on plastic and that can start bad habits,” Bernstein said.
So how do you know if you’re financially healthy?
“I would work with a professional. I mean, it’s just like trying to diagnose your own health without going to see a doctor,” Bernstein added.