Financial planning is key in today's economy

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PHOENIX -- Whether you've got money to spare or you're struggling to make ends meet, dealing with today's economy is a daily challenge.

Justin and Yvonne Hertel are like a lot of Valley families. When the bills roll in, their stress goes up.

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"The first and the 15th of the month, a lot of bills come due and that's when we have to make sure there's enough money in the account to cover those charges," Yvonne said.

And Yvonne admits that money wasn't their area of expertise. She was a spender and Justin was a saver.

"Every time we'd get raises or get any amount of money, he always wanted to save it, I always wanted to spend it," she said.

So they both decided it was time seek some financial advice.

That's when they went to Michael Grosso, a certified financial planner.

"When I met with a financial adviser, he was able to show me these things like where we stood with this and what kind of coverage we needed and things of this sort," Justin said.

"If I had continued on my own the way I was, I'd probably have nothing saved for retirement," Yvonne said.

And for that very reason, Grosso says everyone should have a financial plan.

"It's critical, in my opinion, just because it all starts with planning, and regardless of what age you are it's critical to have a plan," he said.

So, Grosso suggests families always start off by making a budget.

Making a budget tells the Hertels exactly where their money goes every month.

"It comes down to really sitting and looking at what do we really need versus what do we want?" Grosso said.

Along that same line, Grosso says to reduce your debt and get rid of stuff you can live without.

Also, keep saving and contributing to your 401(k). You may feel the urge to sell or cash out, but don't.

"The worst thing that you can really do right now is sell," he said. "I'd err on the opposite side of that and put more into the market. Put more money into the 401(k)s right now."

Finally, he says don't panic. Keep riding the wave. Things will go up.

"There's going to be peaks and valleys and we've had that," he said. "Historically, we've had that for a long, long time, but generally the trend line is up."

These are just a few steps that Justin and Yvonne say have helped them to get a grasp on their finances, getting them to financial freedom one step at a time.

"It's helped us just to have a plan, just to have that thing in the future that we're striving to achieve," Yvonne said.