When was the last time you sat down and methodically went through your finances? Do you know what you are worth? What you owe? How much tax you pay? Do you know how much your pension is worth? Do you have a pension? When did you last check how much life assurance you own? If you were ill how would you pay your bills? Have you made a will?

If the answer to any of those questions was a slightly sheepish 'No.' Don't worry, don't beat yourself up, you're in good company... but DO something! Take action!

Gather your information together and go and speak to a financial planner – somebody who is qualified to help you get a grip on your financial situation and provide you with objective and independent guidance. There is tremendous value in simply making an audit of where you are financially speaking. Nobody will do this for you. Here comes a terrible truth: nobody else cares if you're still paying your mortgage off in your sixties or doing night shifts at B&Q in your seventies in a desperate attempt to eke out a state pension. Each of us must take responsibility for our financial future.

And most of us don't. We pay the bills (mostly), we rely on credit cards to see us through and we buy things we don't need because we 'deserve it'. And this isn't confined to a small section of our society, this is most of us. We work hard, we do our best and we want the best for our children – the best education, the best opportunities and we'll do whatever it takes to get it for them. So if that means moving to a 'better area' for schools we'll take on a huge mortgage and work hard to pay for it.

Many of us are too tired to take control of our finances, we simply keep going and hope for the best. Many of us are relying on an inheritance at some indeterminate future date to put everything right. Some of us admit that to ourselves and some of us don't. And most of us haven't realised that an inheritance can be decimated by care fees - £30,000 pa for an ordinary care home can soon make a pile of cash look, well, a much smaller pile of cash.

This paints a bleak picture. There has to be a better way. There is. It's called financial planning. Working with a good financial planner will help you to take control of your finances, establish clear priorities and install the disciplines needed to work methodically towards achieving them. Boring but true. And gradually as time passes we begin to get ahead of the curve – we're ready for life's challenges. We've got some money in an emergency fund to pay for the unexpected expense. We've paid our mortgage off as quickly as possible and we're now investing the payments into an education plan for our children or topping up a pension. We have no outstanding debt. And, all being well, we know when we can expect to reach that magic moment – financial independence.

Do you know how many people are on target to achieve the retirement they want? Eight per cent! That should be eighty per cent! But it isn't. Come on we can do better than this....

If you would like to spend an hour with Nicholas at his expense to discover how financial planning may be able to help you, drop him a line at nlee@demontfort.biz or call 07725 784348. More information at www.financiallifeplans.co.uk