We’ve reached the midpoint of the year. Are you halfway through your financial New Year’s resolutions?
Some of us might think we are, but quick checks can prove we have work ahead of us to meet financial goals by January.
Follow these steps for a thorough midyear financial checkup:
1. Review your goals
Your money should always work toward something. If you set a financial goal at the beginning of the year, now is the time to check your progress.
For example, if your goal was adding $1,800 to your savings account this year, you should already have socked away $900. If you’re not there, make a plan to catch up.
If you don’t have a goal yet, it is not too late to make one. Besides adding to savings, other goals might include:
Once you have a goal, start tracking it. A pencil and paper may do, but online tools are available, too. For example, software like YNAB (short for “You Need A Budget”) can help you achieve financial goals by monitoring your spending and setting budgets.
2. Check on your investments
Pull recent statements and check your investments. Do you have a good mix of stocks, bonds and cash savings? What’s up — or down?
The right mix depends on your age, investment goals and risk tolerance.
Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson offers a rule of thumb that starts with subtracting your age from 100. Use the result as the percentage of your savings that you should invest in stocks. The rest is the percentage you should invest in bonds and cash.
He continues in “Ask Stacy: How Can I Know I’ll Have Enough to Retire?“:
“So if you’re 20, you’d have 80 percent in stocks, and 10 percent each in cash and bonds. If you’re 80, you’d have 20 percent in stocks, and 40 percent each in cash and bonds.”
Speaking of your cash savings, remember to check on your savings account, too. Are you getting the best interest rate? You can compare rates in the savings section of the Money Talks News Solutions Center.
3. Check on your retirement plan
If an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan is available to you, make sure you’re enrolled and contributing enough to get the full match. If you’re not, ask the human resources department how to bump up your investment.
If you don’t have a 401(k) plan, or simply want to save more for retirement, consider an individual retirement account (IRA). We break them down in “Confused by Retirement Accounts? Roth, Regular IRAs and 401(k)s Made Simple.”
4. Update your tax withholding
The IRS has urged everyone who earns income to check their withholding in the wake of federal tax reform. You can do this using the IRS’ withholding calculator.
Any taxpayer who withholds too little of their income for federal taxes generally risks incurring a larger tax bill than expected — and possibly a penalty for not paying taxes when due — next spring.
If an adjustment appears to be in order, ask your employer for a new W-4 form and fill it out to change your withholding.
5. Pull your credit history
Visit AnnualCreditReport.com, get a free copy of your credit reports and do a midyear checkup on your credit history. There are a lot of ways to improve your credit score, but it all starts with getting a free credit report and looking it over.
Always check your credit reports for errors. If you find any, dispute them with the credit reporting agencies.
6. Check on your FSA
Do a quick review of your flexible spending account (FSA), if you have one. Find out how much you’ve contributed this year, and tally up how much you’ve spent so far.
Since we’re six months into the year, you should be halfway through your FSA account balance by now. If you’re not, make a plan to get through that money by the end of your health insurance plan year.
7. Track your recent spending
I may be alone in this, but I’m at my financial best at the beginning of the year. After New Year’s Eve, I’ve made my money resolutions and start watching every dime I spend.
A few months into the year, I begin to slip. I’ve forgotten all the plans I made — and I’m back to old habits.
To get focused, I track my expenses for 30 days around June or July. I track every dime I spend — including cash purchases — by category. Then, I go through and see where my “money leaks” are.
Again, using software like YNAB can automate the process of tracking your expenses.
8. Update your budget
After tracking your spending, add up the categories and compare them to your budget. Adjust your budget for any overages and put that money to better use — such as padding your savings or paying down debt.
Are you on track to make your financial goals this year? Let us know by commenting below or on our Facebook page.
Jim Gold contributed to this article.
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