Goal-Based Planning

The first step in investing is to define your goals.  Once you've established why you're investing, you can determine how to invest.

Your how will depend on several factors.  One of the most important is your time frame.  When will you need your money?  Your answer will give you a general idea of where to put your money.

If your goal is three or fewer years away, you'll want to play it safe.  Your major considerations should be stability and accessibility.  Savings and money market accounts offer both.  While they don't pay much interest, they tend to maintain their value over the short term.  And they offer quick and easy access to your money.  In addition to your short-term goals, savings and money market accounts are suitable for your emergency fund as well.    

Saving for goals that are three to ten years away can be a little more complicated.  A longer time frame means you may be able to take on a little more risk.  But you'll still need some degree of protection.  Look for investments that offer the potential to outpace inflation.  Depending on current rates, a laddered certificate of deposits or bond portfolio may be a good fit.  As you get closer to your goal, you can shift your assets into more conservative investments.

Goals that are more than ten years away give you more flexibility.  Retirement and college are two common long-term goals.  Over a longer period of time, you can more easily absorb market volatility.  This makes stocks a more attractive option.  Stocks typically offer greater growth potential but tend to be riskier.  Be sure to explore the potential benefits of tax-advantaged accounts, such as a 401(k) or IRA for retirement, and a 529 plan for education savings.

Remember, your goals will change and evolve.  As time passes, your long-term goals will become short-term goals.  It's important to revisit your goals on a regular basis to make sure you're on the right path.  Scudner Group can help you set your goals and provide a strategy to pursue them.