Your Midyear Guide to Managing Your Money
Fortunately, it doesn't have to take a huge amount of time to do a midyear financial checkup. Here are a few simple things you can do to put yourself in the best financial position possible as the year begins to wind down.
1. Check your employee benefits at work. The middle of the year is a good time to take a look at any benefits that you're entitled to receive at work. For instance, many people are eligible to participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k), and your employer might offer you a matching contribution for any money you put into your plan account. Making sure you take maximum advantage of an employer match is one of the best ways to give your retirement savings a boost, and by making changes to your contributions, you'll still have almost six months to get the full benefits of the switch.
In addition, some people have access to flexible spending accounts, where they can make pre-tax contributions that will eventually go to pay your medical expenses or for the cost of your child-care needs. Taking a look at what you've spent halfway through the year should give you a good sense of whether you elected the correct amount at the beginning of the year, and depending on how much money is left available, you might want to consider changing your spending patterns so that you'll end up on target by year-end.
2. Start getting ready for tax time. In July, you might feel like you just got through tax season for last year's tax return, and if you got an extension, you might still have a few more months before you put 2014 in the rearview mirror for good. Regardless, looking at a few simple tax-related issues now is a lot smarter than waiting until late December to take your first look at your taxes for 2015.
A few things stand out as good things to do in a midyear checkup. First, make sure your tax withholding from your paycheck is working the way you want. If you're having too much money withheld, filing a Form W-9 with your employer will boost your take-home pay, although any refund next year will be smaller as a result.
In addition, if you like to sell off your losing investments in order to get a tax break, it's often smarter to do so early in the summer months rather than waiting until the end of the year. Selling now means that you'll avoid the rush of tax-loss selling in the autumn months that can often push share prices of a losing stock down even further, potentially saving you from even worse losses. Finally, checking to make sure your income and deductions are in line with what you expected can help you prepare for what you might owe the IRS next year, avoiding a potentially nasty surprise if the news isn't as good as you had hoped.
3. Take a look at the risk level of your investments. The financial markets have been more volatile in 2015 than in recent years, with relatively small gains in most major stock-market benchmarks. As the bull market enters its seventh year, now's a good time to check and make sure you don't have more risk in your investment portfolio than you're comfortable having.
Many people discover that over the course of a long rise in stock prices, their exposure to stocks climbs far above what they originally had. By rebalancing your portfolio now, you can reduce the risk level among your investments and protect yourself from a market correction or bear market whenever they next occur.
Taking a break from summer fun to look at your finances might not sound like the most exciting use of your time. Yet just taking these simple, quick steps can go a long way toward making it easier to manage your money for the rest of 2015 and beyond.
Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger is an incessant planner. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger or on Google Plus. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days, and check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.