January 6, 2017
Starting the Year Right, Part I
Janice and I just had our year-end review and I thought it would be a good idea to challenge and educate you about creating your own financial planning checklist for 2017. As we have mentioned on numerous occasions, every financial decision has at least two dimensions – mathematical and emotional. Keeping track of your progress with an annual financial planning checklist makes it easier to see which tasks have been completed and which ones you still need to tackle.
Annual Financial Planning Checklist
Check off each step that you’ve considered, even if your response was, “No, I don’t want to refinance my mortgage,” or, “My credit cards are already paid off!” or, “I’m past the point of student debt.” The idea is to make sure you’ve looked at the issue. So, let’s begin:
✔ Create your personal financial inventory
Your personal financial inventory is important because it gives you a snapshot of your bottom line’s health. The BIG issue here is that no one knows what they don’t know, so it’s important to eliminate self-limiting behavior. This step should include:
☐ A list of assets, including items like your emergency fund, retirement accounts, other investment and savings accounts, real estate equity, education savings, etc. Additionally, any valuable jewelry, such as an engagement ring, fits into this category.
☐ A list of debts, including but not limited to: your mortgage, student loans, and credit cards.
☐ Your credit report and score.
✔ Set financial goals
Once you have a personal financial inventory completed, you can move on to setting goals for 2017 and beyond. You should have goals that are short-term, mid-term, and long-term.
Among your short-term goals:
☐ Establish a budget.
☐ Create an emergency fund or ensure your current fund is still up-to-date.
☐ Pay off credit cards.
Your mid-term goals might include:
☐ Get life insurance and disability-income insurance (if necessary).
☐ Think about your dreams, such as buying a first home or vacation property, renovating, moving – or saving so that you’ll have money to send children or grandchildren to college.
Then review your long-term goals, including:
☐ Determine how much of a nest egg you’ll need to save for a comfortable retirement.
☐ Figure out how to increase your retirement savings.
✔ Focus on the family
If you’re married, there are certain things that you and your spouse should be thinking about on the financial front (hopefully you two are on the same page). These are some of the items that may be on your list:
☐ If you have children, determine how much you’ll need to save for future college expenses.
☐ Choose the right college savings account.
☐ If you are caring for elderly parents, investigate whether long-term care insurance or life insurance can help.
☐ Purchase life insurance for yourself and your spouse (if necessary).
☐ Start to determine the timing of your retirement, including your Social Security claiming strategy.
I know this is a lot of information; feel free to take some time to digest these steps and what they may mean for your unique case. After reviewing and updating the points above you will be more prepared to tackle the second half of the checklist when I release it next week. Stay tuned!
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