Taking a comprehensive survey of your finances can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a simple checklist of areas to examine to make sure you’re on the right track for long-term financial health.
Know where your money is going
This is step #1 in any financial review: You’ve got to track your expenses to understand how you’re spending your money. There are many apps available to help you monitor your cash flow, including Quicken, Mint, or You Need a Budget. Or you can use a simple list or spreadsheet. No matter which method you choose, understanding where your money is going is an essential part of staying financially healthy.
Review your emergency fund
Having a fully funded emergency savings account can be a load off your mind. Financial experts generally recommend saving 6 to 12 months’ worth of living expenses as a safety net, not to be touched except in case of a true emergency. It’s easy to overlook this vital step, so if your emergency account isn’t fully funded, start there.
Review your savings and investments
Next, consider your other savings. This is money that can be used for planned expenses at your discretion (unlike your emergency fund). You need to set aside at least 15 to 20% of your income every month, and you need to check in regularly to ensure you’re staying on track.
You also need monitor your investments. Be sure to understand how funds are allocated in your portfolio and whether that aligns with your risk tolerance and financial goals. You should also determine if your investment strategy is meeting your goals or if you and your advisor need to try a different approach.
Review your retirement accounts
Next, look at your retirement planning. If your employer offers a 401K, can you max out your contribution? If you’re self-employed, you may choose to contribute to a Roth IRA or a Solo 401K, depending on your circumstances. Overall, the vehicle you choose is less important than the savings itself; make sure you’re putting money away every single month.
Review your insurance coverage
Make sure you are covered for home, car, health, life, disability and long-term care insurance. Are you happy with your current policies or health savings accounts? Are there any current premiums that could be lowered or any benefit programs you could take advantage of? Ask the right questions, and then go find the right answers.
Organize your tax information
Keeping a well-organized system all year can take the headache out of tax season and protect you from mistakes. Whether you use digital or paper records or both, have them orderly and easy to access. Don’t forget work-related deductions, medical expenses, charitable giving and information about any dependents.
Review your credit
It’s a good idea to check your credit score once a year. Review all outstanding debts, including student loans and consumer debt, and make sure you’re paying off your credit cards each month. Make a plan to get out of debt as soon as possible.
Review estate documents
Don’t forget to consider estate planning as part of your wealth management. Prepare a will, if you haven’t, and keep records of how all your assets are titled, as well as who are the beneficiaries of your retirement accounts and insurance policies. Who has your power of attorney? Can that person access your estate information?
Set financial goals
After you take a survey of your financial situation, you’re ready to consider what comes next. A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ can help, not only in setting measurable goals but in designing a plan to achieve them. At Meld Financial, our CFPs® paired with our proprietary Situational Investing methodology means we design financial strategies specific to each individual client, keeping in mind specific goals and risk tolerance.
Schedule a meeting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Meld Financial today. We can help you start working toward better long-term financial health.