Just like our health, a lot of us take our finances for granted until symptoms start to show. Regular financial check-ups help ensure our finances are in ticking-good order. Consider these five Fall tips to get your check-up started, and then check in with your financial planner or advisor for a full workup.
- Reassess Your Budget
Part of having an effective budget that actually helps you save money and meet your financial goals means regularly reviewing it. If you have a budget already, then you are probably taking stock each month to compare what you planned for income and expenses against your actual income and expenses and are adjusting accordingly. Additionally, you should review your budget annually to not only check progress on long-term goals, but to assess what your needs will be for the coming year. Consider adding these questions to your review:
- Does your budget have a positive cash flow? If you have money left over at the end of each month, where are you allocating it? Make sure that any excess funds are going towards those things that will improve your situation: like savings, investments, and/or debt payoff.
- Do you have a new financial need coming up in the next year? If you have a large anticipated expense coming up, such as home improvements or new car purchase, start planning for it now.
- Do you have enough of an emergency savings built up? A good rule of thumb is to have 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses saved. Look at the past year and compare how much you saved towards an emergency expense, and adjust it for the next year if you have not yet reached this goal. If your expenses or income has changed, adjust your emergency savings goal accordingly.
- Is there a budget category you no longer need, and where can you re-distribute that money? If one of last year’s goals was to save for a grand vacation and you will be staying closer to home this year, reallocate that money into another budget item – such as your emergency fund or a new financial goal – before you start spending it.
- Review Your Retirement Savings
Look over your 401k or other retirement plan for the past year. You need to ensure the amount of your saving meets your financial needs and goals. Schedule an annual appointment with your retirement plan advisor to review your plan or portfolio to stay on target.
- Evaluate Your Investments
Each year, reassess your risk tolerance and take a good look at your investments’ performance over the past year. Sit down with your investment or financial planner to take a look at your financial goals and make adjustments if needed.
- Evaluate Your Insurance
Don’t neglect to review your insurance coverage when checking your finances. This is an easy one to overlook because we don’t consider it an impact on our financial status until something happens. Review all of your policies: home, auto, life, etc., and make sure they are consistent with your current financial and life circumstances.
- Check Your Credit
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that credit reporting companies provide a free copy of your credit report every 12 months. To get your free copy, go to annualcreditreport.com. You can request a copy from each company at the same time and get them all at once, or you can spread them out over the year by requesting one every four months, each time from a different company until you’ve gotten all three.
Once you receive your copy, review it for accuracy. If you discover any errors or suspect fraudulent activity, notify the credit reporting company as well as the applicable creditor in writing through email, certified mail, or online.
- Equifax:1-800-685-1111; equifax.com
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742; experian.com
- TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800; transunion.com
To learn more about credit reports, scores, and what to look for, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer information site, myFICO.com, or annualcreditreport.com.
September 16, 10:00 AM: Budgets Over Bagels
September 16, 12:00 PM: Achieve Your Dreams with SMART Goals
September 20, 5:30 PM: Cupcakes and Credit