Financial planning has long been associated with the wealthy. But in reality, it can and should be accessible to everyone at an affordable cost. Regardless of your financial habits, everybody can benefit from a financial plan. Wouldn't it be comforting to know that you have a savings account, a retirement plan, can afford your monthly bills, and have some wiggle room for a vacation? Many people try to handle their finances on their own, but the vast majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and don't properly prepare for the unexpected. A financial planner can work with you to get organized. We believe that the best financial planner is one that sees your goals from a holistic point of view. A leading company, LearnVest, is on a mission is to change the way people feel about their money.

LearnVest is a different kind of financial planner that provides a customized, comprehensive plan with the ease and convenience of an online service. All for a fraction of the cost of a typical financial planner, LearnVest assigns you a LearnVest Planner or Investment Advisor Representative (FINRA Series 65) to take you through your custom-built plan, step-by-step, to help get on track within a realistic timeline.

When you sign up, your financial planner will schedule a call to discuss your goals, dreams, and hurdles. If you're too busy, they'll find time to work with you on weekends or after work hours, and are always available by email 24 hours a day. After your initial consultation, you will receive a comprehensive financial plan with a detailed budget, a snapshot of your current finances, and a strategy to move forward. This is the blueprint for achieving your goals. You agree on the path to move forward and LearnVest makes it easy to stick to it. Once your budget is established, the next step is to look at retirement, credit cards, and an emergency fund.

Retirement

Many people are confused when it comes to saving for retirement. The retirement section of your plan will set forth an action plan based on your current projected retirement salary and replacement ratio. LearnVest will recommend the best retirement account for you, whether it be a 401(k), Roth 401(k), or IRA. You will talk about what you need for your nest egg, and what to put away now to help you get there.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are a huge emotional burden. Getting out of a credit card debt cycle can sometimes feel never-ending. The planner will advise that you start by eliminating debt with the highest interest rate first, prioritizing paydown order, and telling you what to do each step of the way. You will also get a debt-free date to mark on your calendar!

Emergency Fund

The most critical part of your plan is an emergency fund because it helps keep you from going into debt. In case of an emergency, you typically want to avoid using your credit cards or withdrawing from your retirement fund. Usually, LearnVest recommends having 6 months of take home pay in the bank as a safety net. LearnVest will help you determine an appropriate amount of funds to build your emergency fund and help you budget to meet that number.

Everything Else

Your financial plan may also include information on next steps. Can you afford a mortgage? When will you be able to buy your dream house? You'll also get recommendations about insurance policies and documents such as a will, trust, and beneficiary forms based on your personal picture and goals. With your carefully calculated budget, you can check off items on your financial calendar, get reminders, and manage your progress from the program dashboard.

Along with your personalized financial plan, you'll get quarterly check ins from your financial planner. You'll also have access to a host of free tools including classes, events and articles that can give you tips to stay on your path to financial freedom.

While most people need some help with their finances, many are reluctant to get started. LearnVest's free tools are designed to help get your feet in the water, and their premium service will help you on your way to achieving your financial goals.

Update: Follow this link and learn how to get your customized financial plan for just $149 (originally $299).

*$150 credit can be applied to the set-up fee for The LearnVest Program. Offer subject to expire at any time without advance notice. Cannot be combined with other offers. Log in to redeem.

LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc. that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Please consult a financial adviser for advice specific to your financial situation. LearnVest, Inc. is wholly owned by NM Planning, LLC, a subsidiary of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.

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The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

Getty Images/Maria Stavreva

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