Is it Time to Evaluate Your Overall Financial Standing?Now that the new year is well underway and everyone is settling into a normal routine, it may be a good time to evaluate your overall financial standing to search for areas of improvement. Too often we get ourselves into a rut thinking that everything is working, and nothing needs to be changed. A simple check-up of your finances could save you a substantial amount of money in the following year. Below are some areas you can visit, as part of your annual financial evaluation:
Monthly Recurring Bills
A good first step is to review all of your recurring monthly bills such as car insurance, television and internet service providers, cellular phone plans, etc. Look at your most recent statements for each of these services to ensure that you are not being charged any miscellaneous fees for items you are not using. Then look for alternatives that may be less expensive. Don't be afraid to search "outside the box". For instance, instead of simply switching from one satellite provider to another, or even to cable, consider how much time you actually watch TV. If it's not much, then look at switching to an Internet-based, streaming video option such as Netflix or Hulu Plus. These services are less than $10 per month, whereas satellite packages can be over $100 per month!
Most people establish their beneficiaries when they initially set up a will or an account and forget about it afterwards. During your annual financial check-up, you should review the beneficiaries in your life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and your will to see if anything needs to be changed. Have you had a major life event occur recently, such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child or grandchild, death of a family member, etc? Do your beneficiaries still reflect your wishes?
Finally, review all of the accounts you currently have with all institutions. Do you have accounts at multiple banks that could be consolidated into one? Are there any accounts that you lack that may be helpful? A cash-back rewards credit card, when used properly, is a great tool to make a little extra money this year, and it does not tie up your checking account if your identity gets stolen. If you decide to use a cash-back credit card, be sure to pay off the balance each month or the interest incurred will offset any rewards earned.
Also, be sure to review your investment and retirement account allocation. Some sectors of the market may have performed better than others, thus leading to a need to rebalance your portfolio.
Just like an annual check-up at your doctor, a financial check-up can give you an idea of where you stand and can help prevent some issues in the future.
Article by: Stephen M. Davidson, Audit Staff Accountant