Your mid-year financial checkupFinances
If you’re like many people, you start the year with a host of financial resolutions and good intentions — from breaking bad financial habits to boosting your savings for the future. But somehow, the months whiz by and you’re suddenly at the halfway mark, wondering if you’ve made the progress you were hoping to accomplish. As well-intentioned as we may be, nearly 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail, and most do not even make it past February.
Checking off financial to-dos takes discipline and periodically examining your financial plan to make sure your spending and saving habits are still in line with your goals. Mid-year can be an excellent time to check in with yourself, re-assess your goals and timeline and determine if adjustments are necessary to help stay on course. Here are three key questions to ask yourself as you hit mid-year:
1. Are you visualizing expenses?
Spreadsheets can often fail 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. Instead of crunching numbers in Excel, try creating a visual representation of your upcoming expenses. Think of it as an inspiration board for your finances where you can easily see where your money is going and frequently add or eliminate images based on your current goals.
For example, you can pin your favorite ideas as you find them — like hotels, restaurants and excursions for an upcoming vacation — then decide if they fit into your budget. Or try Visual Budget-Finances, an app that helps you chart and categorize your spending and monitor your budget more efficiently.
2. Have you leveraged financial technology?
With many easy-to-use financial apps right on your phone, you can track your budget, monitor your accounts and set or adjust your goals anytime, anywhere.
- Mint and Wally are two apps that sort and analyze your spending and savings data from multiple accounts, helping you stay in line with your financial goals.
- You Need a Budget (YNAB) is built around a fairly simple principle: Every dollar has a "job" in a personal budget — investing, repaying debt or covering living expenses. Because this app only lets users create budgets around their actual income, it may help people beat the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. And if they get off track, YNAB shows them what to do differently to balance their budget.
3. Are you making the most of your savings and investments?
Mid-year can be a good time to take a look at your budget and determine if your spending and saving habits are in line with your goals. Perhaps there are places you could cut unnecessary expenses to free up more funds to allocate toward savings. If you’re looking to build up your retirement nest egg, now is the time to assess if you’re contributing as much as possible. Exploring these questions may help:
- Can you invest a little more in your 401(k)? Because small increases may yield big results, take time to run the numbers and see if you can up your contributions. Consider setting aside a certain amount of future bonuses or pay raises to go toward your retirement savings. If your employer matches employee contributions, it can be beneficial to contribute up to that amount to further build your savings.
- Do you have additional room for savings? Consider if purchasing an annuity, which can help secure a steady cash flow during retirement, may be right for you.
- Are you in a position to assume some risk? Your appetite for risk may change throughout your lifetime depending on your age, goals and retirement timeline. As you get closer to retirement, it can be a good time to re-evaluate your investments to determine if your risk tolerance still aligns with your current financial portfolio or if changes need to be made.
- Do you want to create steady retirement income? If you wish to create a more secure retirement, purchasing an annuity may be right for you. Annuities can help increase your savings, protect your assets from market risk and provide lifetime income to last through retirement.
And keep in mind, if you’ve had any life events in the first half of the year, be sure to discuss those changes with your financial professional and review your list of goals to see if they still make sense. As you run through your mid-year checkup, you can make any adjustments that will keep your financial plan up to date and your short- and long-term goals on course.
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