8 steps for a midyear money checkup
We're halfway through the year. Do you know where your money is and whether it's working for you? Here's how to find out.
This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News.
I have some catching up to do before I can meet my financial goals by the end of the year. If you do too, we need to talk.
In the video below, Stacy Johnson has six quick steps to give your money a midyear tuneup. Check them out and read on for more details, as well as two more smart steps you can take.
Your money should always be working toward something. If you set a financial goal at the beginning of the year, now is the time to check on your progress. For example, my goal was to add $1,800 to my savings account this year. Since we're halfway through the year, I should have $900 added to my savings account. I'm a little shy at $750, so I'm playing catch-up.
If you don't have a goal, set one -- like adding to your emergency fund, paying down debt or saving for the down payment on a house. Once you have a goal, start tracking it. I use Mint's Goal Tracker to keep track of my progress, but a pen and paper work too.
Pull your recent statements and check on both your retirement and nonretirement investments. Do you have a good mix of stocks, bonds and cash savings? The right mix for you depends on your age, investment plans and risk tolerance.
If your investment portfolio could use an upgrade, there are ways to invest without much money, such as mutual funds. You no longer need $1,000 up front to get in; many funds will let you invest for $50.
Don't forget to check on your savings account. My bank lowered the interest rate three times over the past two years, so I switched to an online savings account. It's linked to my checking account, and transfers are automatic.
If your employer has a 401k plan, make sure you're enrolled and contributing at least enough to get the full company match. (If your company doesn't, or even if it does, make sure you have an individual retirement account.)
Update your tax profile
If you've gotten married or divorced, had a child, changed jobs or suffered a pay cut, your tax withholding could be off and you could be paying too much. Like my dad always says, "Taking too much out of your paycheck is like giving the government an interest-free loan."
To calculate a new withholding, use the IRS Withholding Calculator. If you need to adjust, ask your employer for a new W-4.
Visit AnnualCreditReport.com, get a free copy of your credit reports and do a midyear checkup on your credit history. There are lots of ways to increase your credit score, starting with your free credit report:
- Check for errors. If you find any, dispute them with the credit bureaus.
- Pay down your debts. Aim to get your balances below 30% of your available credit limit (or paid off entirely).
- Pay any past-due accounts and keep them current. That's 35% of your score.
Do a quick review of your flexible spending account. Find out how much you've contributed this year and tally up how much you've spent so far.
Since we're six months into the year, you should be halfway through your FSA account by now. If not, make a plan to get through that money by Dec. 31, since you'll lose any money you don't spend by the end of the year. Here are a few FSA spending ideas:
- Teeth cleaning.
- Physical exams.
- Prescription glasses and contact lenses.
- Prescription medications.
- Medical equipment such as blood pressure monitors, first aid kits and braces.
To make it easier, visit a site like Drugstore.com's FSA Store. Common eligible items are listed there, you can track your FSA spending, and you may qualify for free shipping and other deals.
I'm at my financial best at the beginning of the year. It's after New Year's Eve, I've made my money resolutions, and I'm watching every dime I spend. A few months into the year, I start to slip. I've forgotten all the plans I made, and I'm back to my old habits.
To get myself focused again, I track my expenses for 30 days around June or July. Every dime I spend (including cash purchases) is tracked by category. Then I go through and see where my money leaks are. This year, it's dining out. I'm already $130 over my restaurant budget this month alone. But now that I see it in black and white, I can stop overspending and plug the leak.
If you created a budget at the beginning of the year or several years ago, it may need some fine-tuning. For example, I realized I overestimated my monthly grocery bills by about $75. Now that I know, I can reallocate that $75 to my savings goals.
After you track your spending, add up the categories and compare them with your budget. Adjust your budget for any overages and put that money to better use, like padding your savings or paying down debt.
More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:
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