Do you wait until May to take down your holiday decorations? Do you hit snooze on your alarm clock each morning? Do you put off grocery shopping until the only food in the fridge is a three-day-old leftover meatloaf? Then chances are, you’re a procrastinator.
When it comes to managing your finances, procrastination can put you at risk financially and keep you from reaching your goals. Conducting an annual review of your finances each year can seem overwhelming. But by breaking them down into small, monthly action items, you may find that you are able to accomplish more than ever.
The Winter Months
Reviewing and updating your spending plan in January can get the year off to a good start. Track last year’s income and expenses and adjust your plan accordingly. Determining your net worth — your assets minus your liabilities — provides a snapshot of your financial health. doing it at the same time each year can help you track your progress year over year.
By February, you should have received your W-2 from your employer(s). Gather the rest of your tax documents — property tax receipts, mortgage interest, donation receipts, etc. — so you’re ready to prepare your taxes or meet with your tax advisor. If you’re getting money back, the earlier you file your taxes, the earlier you will get your refund.
March is National Credit Education Month, so consider designating it as “check your credit report” month. You’re entitled to one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Check each report at www.annualcreditreport.com to stay on top of changes or suspicious activity.
Federal income tax returns are due on or around April 15. You have until the tax filing deadline to contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA) for the prior year.
In May, review your estate plan, beneficiary designations, and the individuals you’ve named as executor and guardian for your minor children. Changes in your family situation might require adjustments to your plan.
June is a good time to schedule an appointment with your financial professional to check that you’re on track with pursuing your goals.
The Good Old Summertime
Now that you’re halfway through the year, July is a good time to check your retirement and other investment portfolios and compare their performance.
Make sure your summer fun didn’t upset your budget with a review of your credit card accounts and personal loans in August. If you’re not making progress with reducing your debt, come up with a plan to pay down your balances faster.
September is Life Insurance Awareness Month, so review your coverage to make sure it’s adequate for your family’s needs. Check your disability coverage as well, and consider buying an individual policy to supplement employer-provided coverage.
Fall into Good Year-End Habits
October is generally the time for reviewing employee benefits and making choices for the coming year. Contributing to health savings accounts for health care and/or flexible spending account for dependent care can lower your tax bill.
Begin your year-end tax planning by November to take advantage of strategies that may help increase your savings and minimize your income tax obligation. Waiting too long can deprive you of opportunities.
It’s the season of giving. Consider donating to charitable organizations before year-end. Contributions charged to a credit card or paid by check by December 31 will help someone in need and might be deductible on this year’s tax return.
A little preparation goes a long way. But with a monthly plan in place, you can put yourself on track to making it a successful financial year.