Ah, Summer! Time to kick back, relax on the beach, and enjoy a cold drink. While Summer is the perfect time to take some time off and relax it’s also the perfect time to do a quick financial plan review. What? You don’t have a financial plan? Well, in that case, Summer is a great time to start. And, If you want some help with your plan, read on or click here for a special offer!
Your financial life is always changing and ignoring or being unaware of the changes (for good or bad) is not the best way to go through life. The goal is to live your life by design rather than by default, and staying on top of things helps this goal tremendously.
No matter if you have a financial plan in place or not, taking some time now to review where you are when it comes to your life and your money can pay big dividends now and in the future. The (slightly) less hectic pace of Summer means you can spend a bit more brain power on realistically assessing where you are instead of just reacting to what happens. If you have a financial plan in place you can review where you are in relation to that plan and double-check that you aren’t getting too off track or missing anything important. If you don’t yet have a financial plan you can start the process of thoughtful review and consideration that is needed to get things going.
Hopefully I’ve motivated you to take some time this Summer to review your current financial situation. Now, what areas should you be reviewing? Well, it’s impossible to list every single item because everyone’s situation is different. That being said, there are a few key areas that nearly everyone should review from time to time. Keeping on top of these areas will help you stay ahead of the curve and be better positioned to react with thoughtfulness when something changes instead of with emotion.
Here are the areas, listed in the order that I believe you should address them:
Let’s talk a little about each one:
When it comes to doing anything, it helps to have goals. Setting and periodically reviewing those goals is vital to moving through life with purpose. Before you do anything else, make sure that you know why you are doing it. If you don’t have any specific goals, start now to build both short and long-term goals that fit who you are and what you are about. Typical goals could be:
And on and on…
Everyone is different so take some time to really consider what you want to do (as well as what NEEDS to be done) and use that as your starting point. Your goals will change over time and that’s ok. It’s a lot easier to update/change your goals when you actually HAVE goals.
Where does the money go? If you don’t know, it will be nearly impossible to make progress. Once you know what your goals are you need to make sure you know what’s available to fund those goals. That’s where knowing your income, expenses and savings is so important. Now, you don’t need to be a CPA to do this, but it does take a little time and motivation.
Start with your income. How much are you actually bringing in? Surprisingly, many people have no idea! It’s OK to use the amount that is on your paycheck. Total that up and come up with a monthly amount. Next, dial in what your “true” expenses are. Once again many people have no idea what they spend. To get an accurate number it helps to use some sort of tracking method. You can use pen & paper, a spreadsheet or a dedicated piece of software. I recommend (and use myself) an app called YNAB. Here’s the link: https://www.youneedabudget.com/ If you find that you have “money left at the end of the month”, congratulations! If not, then it’s time to dig in and figure out why. The goal here is to get away from deficit spending (adding more money to your debt each month) and be in the position where you can start saving for your goals.
What if “something” happens? What would you do? To help you deal with the inevitable and unpredictable ups and downs of life you need to have a safety net. For most of us that safety net is our emergency savings, insurance, workplace benefits and estate plan. If you don’t have this safety net you risk everything you’re working for collapsing around you. With that in mind ask yourself these questions:
If you find yourself saying “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” it’s probably time to dig a little deeper and make sure you know what you are covered for (or not). If you have a financial advisor you trust, contact them and ask them to take a look at things. If you don’t currently work with a trusted advisor it might be time to start because ignoring your “What Ifs” could leave you saying “What am I going to do now!?”
After you’ve reviewed the above areas then, and only then, should you look at any investments to make sure they are aligned with what you are trying to do. Many people start, and stop, with reviewing their investments and ignore everything else. That’s understandable because nearly everything we hear about “financial advice” makes it seem that investing is everything. While investments are important they are not the most important part. The most important part is that you know why it is that you are investing. Once you know that then you can put an investment plan in place that increases the odds that you will reach your goals.
Gather up the most recent statement from any investment accounts and review them keeping these questions in mind:
If the answer to any question is “No” or “I don’t know” then you need to get the information needed to feel comfortable. Only then should you be worried about how your investments are performing.
Reviewing your financial plan (or starting the process) will take some work. Many people can do this themselves, but many can’t (or don’t want to) do it all on their own. That’s where an experienced, fiduciary financial planner like myself comes in. If you would like some help, I would be honored to speak with you, find out more about you situation and see if my services might be a fit.
To help you get started I’m happy to offer you a no obligation, complimentary review of your current financial situation and offer my insights. If you want to start building out your plan right away, you can access our secure financial planning software and begin entering your information. Here is the link. Once you enter your basic information I will follow up with you and put together your complimentary financial summary. If you’d rather speak with me first, just give me a call at 678-626-7526 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.