11/05/2020: Mid-Year Financial Review
It probably seems like 2020 has dragged on forever, but the halfway point is finally here. This year has been especially turbulent for millions of Americans who have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of how the year is going for you, July is a good time to assess your financial status with a mid-year review. This gives you a vision for the future and an honest look at how you’ve done during the first six months of the year.
You might think that financial health comes down to whether you have money in the bank to pay your bills. This is a good indicator of survival, but your mid-year financial review should examine more than just your checking account.
Here are the numbers that matter most:
- Budget: Look at your spending habits and try to strike a balance between necessities and fun. Consider canceling some services or memberships that you don’t need; shop at less expensive grocery stores; look for coupons; or buy items in bulk. Coordinate the due dates for your bills around your paycheck schedule so you always know how much money you need before those deadlines. If you find that you have enough money left over each month for frivolous purchases, think about whether that money would be better spent by applying it towards debt, an investment, or a monthly savings goal.
- Goals: Talk to a trusted advisor about what you want to accomplish financially. Do you want to have more money for vacations? Do you need to set aside money for your child’s college fund? Are you looking to buy a home soon? These are all questions that can kickstart a conversation about your goals.
- Savings account: Storing money in a bank is more secure than a piggy bank, but shopping around can unlock even more benefits. Look for interest rates that can help increase your balance while it sits in your account. Ask your financial institution about packages that include checking, savings, and credit accounts.
- Retirement fund: The type of account you have matters. A 401k from your employer might offer a matching program that gives you extra money each time you contribute. Nobody likes to turn down free money, especially if you can afford to allocate the maximum amount that your employer will match. Your 401k contributions are also automatically sent to the account from your paycheck. An Independent Retirement Account (IRA) gives you more flexibility than an account connected to your job. It also allows you to take a full tax deduction on your contributions as long as you or your spouse don’t have a 401k account through your employers. A Roth IRA account can be useful if you’d like to pay the taxes on your money now and withdraw tax-free later in life.
- Tax withholdings: Remember that W-4 form you filled out when you started your job? That form controls how much you owe or receive at tax time. A hefty refund always feels incredible, but adjusting the amount you withhold can bolster your paychecks while ensuring you won’t owe too much or receive too much at tax time.
- Your will and power of attorney: Nobody likes to plan for death or medical emergencies, but it is the responsible thing to do. If you don’t have a will and power of attorney, discuss with your loved ones how you’d like to divide your possessions and where you want your money and investments to go. Think about who you trust to make financial decisions for you if you are unable to do so.
Finances and your future can seem intimidating. As you conduct your mid-year financial review, tackle each item individually so the task doesn’t seem so daunting. The experience will get easier as you get in the habit of assessing your finances every year.