David J. Perrotto
Another year wiser, and another year older! With that, what will you wish for this year? Continued good health? Professional Stability? A big lottery win? Since you only have one wish, it’s a good idea to go with a financial-related one. Getting more organized for your financial future will not only help you reach your personal goals, but it sure beats waiting on that lotto win, considering that an average state lottery has jackpot odds of about 100,000,000 to 1. Here’s your Financial Birthday Checklist for things you can do to help you make your birthday wish a reality.
“A budget that will make my future dreams come true.” Keeping a budget shows what’s important to us and where we want to be at the end of the journey. Every year, revisit your contribution forecasts to such things as your retirement savings, college savings plans, your emergency fund, or your vacation fund. Maybe circumstances in your life have changed and you may need to reallocate or strategize your budget to ensure it is a reflection of what’s important to you and your goals down the road.
“A retirement plan that will actually allow me to retire.” Looking at your 401k balance every day of a week, or whenever you hear the next geopolitical problem over the next 30 years is not helpful to achieving your long-term goals. Yet an annual review of your investments helps determine if your portfolio needs an adjustment or if you need to contribute more or less for the next year.
“An employer benefit program that addresses all my needs.” Employers have their own specific enrollment periods where you can either join or change benefit options. Use your birthday as an annual reminder to evaluate any changes in your life and where you stand with all your health and insurance needs. Is this the year you switch from a low cost/High deductible plan to a high cost/low deductible plan? You may also want to re-evaluate retirement accounts to make sure you are maximizing your contributions—within the constraints of your budget and capitalizing on any employer contributions that may be available.
“A credit score that will permit me to buy what I need and what I want.” Your birthday could be the perfect reminder to get your free copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus. Credit scores can determine how much it will cost you to borrow money to buy a house or a car. The difference between the best and worst rates can vary by a full percentage point and a half for a mortgage. Also, be aware that credit reports are often not perfect. An annual check-up could discover misreporting or fraudulent activity.
“An estate that’s in order.” An estate is simply the net worth of a person at any point in time, made up of your assets, legal rights, interests and entitlements to property of any kind, less all liabilities. Depending on those assets and liabilities, you may want to make sure your will and any power of attorney paperwork are up to date and in compliance with state and federal laws. Take a look to see if all the beneficiaries on your accounts are listed and updated.
Every year when your birthday cake comes out and the candles are lit, use it as a reminder to do a personal financial check-up. You’ll be one step closer to achieving what you’re wishing for as you blow out your candles.