Is it Time to Get a Financial Check-Up?
Most of the time we go through life simply “taking care of business.”
As life events occur, we handle them accordingly and go back to our lives. Often, we do the same with our finances. We save a little, spend a little, sometimes have an emergency and move on. But, at least once a year, you need to give your finances a full once-over to make sure they’re healthy and keeping you on track for your goals.
There are six major areas of your financial portfolio that you should be keeping an eye on. Each year, maybe when you are organizing your taxes, take some time to review these areas. It’s also very important to revisit this plan during (or before if possible) life events. Life events are milestones that may change your life and/or your financial planning, such as a birth or marriage, a new job or a new house, and even a death or divorce.
Keep your emergency fund fully funded, to keep you out of trouble and reduce any requirement for unwanted debt! Your emergency fund should be easily accessible and have about three to six months’ worth of income in it.
Then review the rest of your savings to make sure that they are still allocated in line with your financial goals. If you are doing some significant saving, use these new dollars to help even out any change in allocation that the market may have caused.
Don’t forget these assets, even though they may seem far away. Asset allocation is just as important here. Furthermore, confirm that all beneficiaries are correct, especially if you’ve just had a child! If you are in your late 60s, determine when Required Minimum Distributions are required and establish a tax strategy for them.
Life, House, Car, Boat, Jewelry – whatever type of insurance you have acquired, examine it annually to be certain it has all of your assets covered, and it has kept up with inflation. It’s easy to continue to pay the premiums, while not realizing that the insurance does not truly reflect what the insured is worth.
In addition, having children, buying a home, or getting married or a divorce are all good reasons to seek the help of a professional regarding how to best handle life insurance.
Your employer probably allows you to “re-choose” your health insurance each year. Don’t glide through this and choose whatever you had last year. Make some informed decisions using what you know may happen in the upcoming year (having a baby…getting married…child getting braces…).
If you’re using debt as leverage in your financial portfolio, take a look at it annually to be sure that your debt-to-equity ratio has not risen too high or that interest rates have not changed, making some debt less attractive.
Estate Planning Documents
We ALL need a will to designate who will receive our assets in the case of our death. If you believe that your estate is too simple to require a will, be forewarned. If you die without a will, the state decides how to divide your assets, and that may include people you never imagined would be involved.
A living will outlines how you would like to be treated if you become incapable of making or communicating your decisions. Furthermore, Power of Attorney documents outline who will be able to make financial or additional decisions for you when you can’t. This once per year check-up is also a good time to be sure that all the beneficiaries named on insurance, retirement accounts or annuities are correct and updated.
Outline a strategy for what you wish to and are capable of giving and make sure it is compatible with tax planning. Clarify if a charitable trust or fund is appropriate for your portfolio.
Current tax law allows up to $14,000 per year per person as a gift, without tax implications. If necessary, build a long-term gifting strategy, with a spouse if applicable, to accomplish your goals, with as little tax liability as possible.
Once you set your financial plan in place, you will find that it doesn’t take long to review it each year. You may even find you get some satisfaction from accomplishing your goals! Remember, when you need it, you can always request the help of an impartial financial planner. Certified Financial Planner Professionals™ are trained to review your entire financial portfolio and make sure that all the moving parts are working together to help you reach your goals faster.