Your mid-year financial checkupFinances
We’ve all done it: Start the year with a host of fiscal resolutions and good intentions — from breaking bad financial habits to getting on top of our investing game. But somehow, the months whiz by, and from a money management perspective your next New Year’s Eve is looking more like Groundhog Day. Studies show that only about half of all Americans finish the year having met their financial resolutions. Want to break the pattern? Experts say that mid-year can be an excellent time to check in with yourself and make some adjustments to be sure you’re staying on course.
Here are three key questions to ask yourself now:
- Are you visualizing future expenses? Stark spreadsheets often fail people when it comes to tracking home renovations, vacations, and other high-volume purchases because they don’t allow you to see the smaller expenses that can add up. “When there’s a lot of data to keep straight, it’s easier to leave out the little things and go over budget,” said Regina Leeds, co-author of One Year to an Organized Financial Life. Instead of crunching numbers in Excel, Leeds helps her clients see abstract numbers as tangible objects by having them visually track their purchases. For example, one of her recent clients wanted to remodel her home. In this case, Leeds recommended a productivity app called Springpad to help track the budget. “It’s the love child of Pinterest and Evernote because it is both visual and allows for cross-referencing,” Leeds said. In other instances, Leeds recommends just Pinterest to help keep clients future expenses organized. Think of it as an inspiration board for your finances. For example, you can pin and price out purchases — like hotels, restaurants, and excursions for an upcoming vacation — as you see them, then decide if they fit into your budget.
- Have you leveraged financial technology? We don’t go anywhere without our phone, so use it wisely and download one of the many available tools. Apps like Mint and Level Money sort and analyze your spending and savings data from multiple accounts, helping you stay in line with your financial goals. SavedPlus helps build your savings by automatically adding a percentage of every purchase you make to your savings account (you can select from 5 percent to 20 percent, so at 10 percent a $100 purchase would send an additional $10 to your savings). And Wallaby lets you select your credit cards and then makes recommendations on which to use based on the type of purchase you’re making and each card’s rewards program. Having tools like these at your fingertips will help you use better judgment at the checkout counter and keep your savings and spending plans on track so you can get closer to your resolutions.
- Are you making the most of your savings and investments? If saving more for retirement was one of your resolutions, now is the time to assess if you’re contributing as much as possible. Can you invest a little more in your 401(k)? Because small increases yield big results, take time to run the numbers and see if you can up your contribution. Do you have additional room for savings? Consider opening an annuity, which can secure a steady cash flow during retirement. Are you in a position to assume some risk? Try experimenting conservatively with bedrock stock or even illiquid investments, which can have more advantages than you might think: “One major reason the wealthy become wealthy is that they take a long-term view and make illiquid investments,” says Chartered Financial Consultant Shane Siederman. “An example is real estate, where there are gains to be made from write-offs and rental income. When you add in those write-offs and the appreciation, over time a lot of money can be made.”
Be sure to discuss what has changed for you at mid-year with your financial professional, so any needed strategy adjustments can be made to help keep you on course.
This information is brought to you by Athene — where unconventional thinking brings innovative annuity solutions that can help make your retirement dreams a reality.
Athene and its employees are not authorized to provide tax, legal or investment advice. Please contact a qualified professional for such advice.