Midyear money check-ups are important. Six months of the year are gone, January resolutions to get our money organized are long behind us, and we're faced with some of the same money questions and situations that we started the year with.
As a certified financial planner who launched her own business last year, and whose husband recently transitioned out of active duty service in the military, a midyear money checkup was a must in our household this year.
Read on for nine steps I took to tune up our finances in a year that hasn't gone quite as planned:
Midyear Money Review: How I Tuned Up My Finances in 9 Steps
Before launching into review our finances, I kicked off with the same Money Organizer Workbook I have my readers or clients use when reviewing their finances. It broke down steps for me to conquer and review one at a time, and allowed me to see the areas I needed to focus on and where I was good to go.
Creating a plan around your finances without having clearly defined goals in akin to getting into the car to drive somewhere without a destination in mind. There's no room for vagueness. My husband and I had to sit down and determine what we're trying to accomplish (aside from just surviving the change wave that is hitting us). We got detailed and created actionable SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely). So, instead of merely saying we'll vacation in Europe, we're now "saving $5,000 for a vacation to Europe next summer."
We all know we're supposed to spend less than we make, but are we? Building a budget is the most important part of getting financially organized. You can't create a plan to meet your goals without knowing where your money is going. Start tracking your spending by paying attention to fixed expenses, debt payments and discretionary (or what I call "fun times") expenses. Pinpoint the areas that are prime for reductions if necessary. In our house, we're willing to cut back on dining out in order to build up our travel fund.
Have you added to or reduced debt since the year began? When it comes to tackling debt, either go after accounts with the highest interest rates first (meaning extra money goes towards this balance only) or use the "snowball" method (targeting lowest balances for payoff first) to build momentum. I have clients and readers use the debt spreadsheet in the Money Organizer Workbook to document creditors, outstanding balances, terms, interest rates and minimum monthly payments and prioritize from there. While we make an effort to pay off our credit cards in full each month, knowing the balances we carry in other debt helps us to understand how much mortgage we can afford when we make the move into a house later this year.
If you didn't start on Jan. 1, there are still six months left to maximize retirement plan contributions. The max contribution for Roth and IRA accounts in 2014 is $5,500 -- $916.67 a month, for the next six months.
The max contribution for your Roth and regular 401(k)s is $17,500. That's $2,916.67 a month for the next six months.
If you haven't been paying attention to your investments, now is the time to check in on allocations and adjust or rebalance to align with your intended strategy. With the market on the move upwards, I took the chance to look at our accounts and the original intended allocation for our funds. With the growth in the market, some funds were out of balance with their intended targets, so I sold and purchased and rebalanced back to target allocations.
You may think "it won't happen to you," but in reality, it could and it might. Having the right kinds of insurance in place for home, auto, life, disability and personal liability is incredibly important. It's even more important to update these numbers as your income fluctuates, your family grows, your career changes, you make large purchases or acquire debt. Many of these numbers are being revamped this month in our household due to my husband's transition to a new job and the adjustments to benefits that we have and need.
Thinking about your death or possible disability is by no means sexy, but it's important. Having the tough conversations and creating documentation for your wishes is a gift of peace of mind for your family. (It's also a good time to tell your spouse who he or she can and can't date if you're no longer around). This is a conversation that my husband and I had a while ago during a road trip, and we have documentation in place, but with family planning on the horizon, it has recently brought up some new questions that we needed to address.
Schedule a check-in for six months from now to track the progress you've made on goals and to review the list of items you've tackled in the previous months. Celebrate your wins along the way. In our house, we have a list of the things we want to purchase (big or small) on the refrigerator. Each time our savings accounts get to a certain amount, we celebrate by allowing ourselves $100 toward one of the items we wanted to purchase. It's a small way to celebrate success and to curb impulse spending.