By Abbey L. Henderson, CFP®, RLP®, CPCC®
We tend to spend a lot of time and energy thinking about how to make more money. We strategize on how to get a raise, or we dream of finding more lucrative investments. But we often forget the importance of a regular financial checkup. We all know it’s smart to have an annual physical checkup, to see what’s really going on with our health. It’s just as smart to do a financial checkup, because it will reveal how you can whip your finances into better shape without requiring you to “make” more money!
I’ve come up with a 5-point financial fitness checklist that makes it easy for you to do a financial checkup. I recommend you schedule this checkup at lease annually:
#1: Clarify. Every time you set a financial goal you need to ask yourself why. Don’t just settle for the tradition goals like “educate my kids” or “retire early.” Take time to tap into what you truly desire. When your vision is so clear that you can see it and feel it, you’ll be motivated to take action on your goals and make them a reality.
#2: Organize: Have you ever lost track of one of your bank accounts? It can happen! Make a list of accounts, account numbers, and login details, along with contact info for the professionals you use. Create a file system – either paper or a secure online system. Consider using a service like Mint.com for tracking where your money goes– you might be surprised! And make sure you regularly check your credit report to ensure it’s accurate.
#3: Simplify. Once you have a handle on your accounts, it might be time to streamline things. Are there unnecessary bank accounts you can close? Should your roll over your old 401k? Are there assets you no longer use or enjoy that you can sell?
#4: Prepare. You have to deal with the yucky stuff so it doesn’t come back to haunt you later. Make sure you have at least a simple estate plan. Decide on who could serve as executor, guardian, health care proxy agent, etc. and then talk to them about filling these roles – no one likes surprises down the road. Make sure you have enough term life insurance and disability insurance to protect you and your family and that your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance is adequate.
#5: Partner. If you value your time and want to protect your financial interests, you want to find good partners. For example, an accountant can save you time and help you avoid mistakes when it comes to reporting taxes. Or a good insurance agent who represents multiple companies can often get you a better deal. A local attorney that does a lot of estate planning can help you avoid headaches down the road.
So, how did you do on your financial checkup? Do you see areas of concern, but don’t know exactly what to do about them? It might be time to refer your case to a specialist. As a financial life planner, I’d love to help you get a handle on your big picture vision, as well as a personalized strategy to help make it a reality. Feel free to schedule a complimentary Financial Life Plan Discovery Session with me to learn more.