You wouldn’t start training for a marathon by running ten miles on your first day, right? Of course not! You would build workouts on top of each other with a good plan in mind until you’re in great shape. Why not tackle your financial health in the same way? We’ve created a “financial calendar” with one bite-sized task each month. You’ll stay in touch with your financial life throughout the year, you’ll improve your financial knowledge little-by-little, and you won’t burn out by trying to knock it all out in the first month of the year. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Get started with January’s task now!
January – Review your spending plan
The best way to kick off a successful financial year is to start with a spending plan. Begin by gathering information from last year and evaluate the spending behavior you displayed. Then create guidelines for spending categories for the upcoming year. If you do not utilize an online money management tool, but would like to learn more about the options available, click here for more information.
February – Get organized for tax time
By the end of February, you will have received most of the tax forms and important documents necessary for filing your taxes. Keep all of these documents organized and readily available. When you have collected all of the necessary documents, schedule an appointment with your tax professional or reserve time in your personal schedule to complete your taxes with a reputable software program.
March – Focus on college savings
If you have children, speak with your advisor about college savings options. For those investors who have a college plan in place, this is a great time to make sure that you are on track with savings goals. If your children are within a couple of years of college, it’s wise to start reviewing the rules surrounding the FAFSA form, which is required for federal financial aid.
April – Adjust your income tax withholdings
Now that the tax dust has settled, review your withholdings on your W-4 form with your employer. The W-4 reflects your instructions to your employer for withholding taxes from your paycheck. It should be reviewed periodically and especially as your financial situation changes. It’s best to neither owe a lot nor receive a lot in a tax refund, so update your W-4 if either of those things are happening to you.
May – Disability Awareness Month
Have you thought about what would happen if you were unable to collect a paycheck due to disability? Yikes. The month of May is a great time to speak about the options with your advisor. Review disability coverage offered through your employer and make sure you know if you’re protected adequately. If your employer doesn’t offer coverage, consider the options for insuring through a policy you own outside of your employer.
June – Perform a mid-year check up
You’re halfway there! A mid-year financial checkup is a worthwhile process that can pay major dividends later in the year. You created goals at the start of the year and this is the best time to track the progress. Do not be too hard on yourself if you are not completely in line with savings goals. Assess the shortfall and reorganize the plan. The mid-year mark is also an excellent time to bump up your retirement plan contribution by a percentage point or two. Little changes make a big difference over time!
July – Check your credit report
Knowing your credit score and the actions that positively and negatively affect scores is an imperative aspect of managing your financial life. Every person is entitled by The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to a free credit report every 12 months. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to order your report.
August – Check on your net worth
Tracking your net worth is an important step in planning for long-term financial success. What is net worth? Net Worth = Assets – Liabilities. A net worth statement is a financial snapshot on a given day, and a periodic review provides a quick assessment of overall financial condition. It’s a great way to know if you’re making progress from period to period.
September – Life Insurance Awareness Month
Protecting one’s family in case of death is top-of-mind for most adults. Your financial situation changes from time to time, so evaluating your life insurance coverage should be something you do regularly. There are several aspects that are important to consider when researching life insurance, such as type of insurance, common uses, amount of coverage, length of coverage, and premium amount. The biggest payoff for the undertaking? The comfort of knowing that if something happens to you, the people you care about are okay financially.
October – Evaluate employee benefits
As the years change, so do employer benefits. Open enrollment is the time to review what your employer offers. Did you have a baby this year? If so, you may be interested in the dependent care flexible spending account. Is your employer offering a high-deductible health insurance plan? If so, you should examine the benefits of a health savings account.
November – Review your estate plan
As Thanksgiving nears, many people gather together with family. Taking care of our families is often a top priority and this month’s goal is to focus on creating or reviewing your estate plan so that your wishes will be carried out should anything ever happen. Click here to learn more about estate planning.
December – Year-end review
The end of the year is the perfect time to evaluate your goals and progress. If you have not taken full advantage of your financial accounts, consider increasing your retirement plan contributions and make sure that your emergency account is fully funded. It’s also a good time to review your tax situation and make any adjustments necessary before the year is officially in the record books.
Good luck and have a great year!
Andrea L. Blackweder, CFP®, ChFC and Joseph D. Clemens, CFP®, EA are the founders and partners of Wisdom Wealth Strategies. Their shared passion is simple: to bring financial empowerment, understanding, and peace-of mind to people who wish to improve their financial future, build wealth for their families, and achieve financial independence. Click here to find out more about how you can work with Wisdom Wealth Strategies.