Your Guide to Getting Your Finances In Order
With tax season behind us, this is a perfect time to review your current financial position and look ahead to see what changes you need to make to get your financials in order. Here are a few topics on the financial checklist:
- Emergency Fund
- Financial Files
- Account Information
- Retirement Savings Rate: Did you reach your saving target last year? Should you increase it this year? Calculate what percentage of your salary you should be saving to have enough for retirement. The most basic calculation for how much you’ll need to retire is your annual salary x 25.
- Increase Contributions: Contribution limits increased for 2019, so take advantage if you’re able to max out this year. You can contribute up to $19,000 to your retirement account in 2019, plus $6,000 if you are age 50+.
Savings and Investments
- Emergency Fund: 65.2% of adults have less than $1,000 in cash or savings accounts. Only 17% of adults have more than 3 months of income in a cash or savings account. Are you prepared for an unexpected expense? If you don’t have an emergency fund, start setting money aside. Aim for enough to cover 3-6 months of expenses.
- Make it Automatic: Pay yourself first. Set up an automatic payroll deduction to a savings account or retirement account. Make it a percentage so that your savings increase as your salary increases.
- Review Investments: Review your retirement investments. If you have money sitting in a money market account, consider moving the money into a fund with higher returns. Don’t try to time the market; you could be missing out on returns while you’re waiting for the perfect moment to enter the market. You might need to recalibrate the level of risk of stocks versus bonds as you get closer to retirement. If you have an HSA but haven’t invested it yet, take advantage of the compounding interest that comes from investing.
- Evaluate Deductions and Withholdings: If you had a large refund or owed a high amount, adjust your tax withholdings. Decide if you can increase your pre-tax deductions to reduce the taxes you’ll owe next year. Adjust withholdings as necessary to decrease what you’ll owe at tax time next year or decrease your refund to avoid giving the government an interest-free loan.
- Review Progress: Create or update your budget and set or update savings goals. A short-term goal might be an emergency fund or travel fund. A mid-term goal might be a down payment on a house or saving for a child’s college fund. A long-term goal would be retirement. Assess your progress, and if you have reached a goal, replace it with a new one like working towards paying off consumer debt. See if you can increase payments to pay it off sooner.
Financial Files and Accounts
- Organize Your Financial Files: Shred old documents and store files electronically or keep physical copies. Whichever format you chose, files should be kept securely. Put a password on electronic files and consider storing physical papers in a fireproof box.
- Make a Master List: Create a secure list of all your financial accounts with account numbers and online login information. Share this with someone in case of emergency and store it in a fireproof box.