Important Questions to Ask About Your Mid-Year Finances

Remember back at the end of 2017 when you sat down and were thinking about all of your big plans to save more, spend less, and get out of debt? Millions and millions of people do that along with other resolutions like losing weight, quitting smoking, or even finding a new job. But it’s been about six months since you had that conversation with yourself and now that the year is halfway over, the time is ripe to evaluate your progress.

Can you believe we're halfway through 2018? Now's the time to ask these important questions about your mid-year finances to make sure you're on track.

There are a few key questions that you should be asking right now, and if your answer to any of them is “no”, it may mean that you have areas that need some fine-tuning. Remain calm and take heart: if you do find any areas where you have lost your focus, it is not too late to take action this year and reach your goals. Check yourself right now and see where you stand!

Important Questions to Ask About Your Mid-Year Finances

1. Has your credit card debt balance gone down since January?

Did you intend to pay down your credit card debt only to find that now it’s growing because of changes in your expenses or you just simply haven’t changed any of your bad spending habits? The best way to get a handle on it if you are in this situation is to review the statements for each of your credit card accounts for the past six months. If your balances are not going down, what actions can you take to change your course?

Be honest with yourself. Review your budget (you do have a budget, right?) and check to be sure you are living within your means. If you have a budget, the cardinal rule is actually to look at it and try to live within or below it. If that’s not happening, you are literally setting yourself up for financial disaster!

What can you do about it right now?

To resist unplanned spending, remove your cards from your wallet and put them in a safe place (like the bottom of you sock drawer?). To the best of your ability, don’t rely on a credit card for any unexpected expenses. That’s the reason I stress that you have an adequate emergency savings fund so that you only spend what you have and not increase any debt on any emergency or non-emergency situations. It all goes back to the most fundamental principle that says you have to make tough decisions about spending on your “wants” versus your “needs”.

2. Have you done a reality check on your credit card interest rates?

The Federal Reserve has raised the key federal funds interest rate twice already in 2018 by 0.25% each time and is expected to do so another two times this year. That means your credit cards have likely raised their interest rates by 0.50% or more, and that comes on top of last year’s increases.

If you are someone who makes only minimum payments on a $5,000 credit card balance, and whose current interest rate is 17.5%, the rate change means it will take three months longer to pay off that debt. You also will pay a total of more than $300 more in extra interest charges. It is never ideal to pay only the minimum on a debt balance, but even worse when interest rates are increasing. That’s why it is more important than ever to try to eliminate your debt as quickly as possible.

What can you do about it right now?

First, check the rates on your credit card(s) and see if they have changed at all for the worse so far this year. You know those often received little inserts in your credit statement that you never really read? That’s probably where the “legally required” information was written that notified you about an increase. If you see that, you can do a couple of things.

First, you can always pay the balance off and close your card without harm anytime there is a change in the terms you originally signed on for (like a rate increase) or you can simply stop using it and increasing you card debt and making it even worse. Second and even better, you can contact your credit card company and simply ask for an interest rate reduction if you are regularly paying your bills and have a good record with them. You’d be shocked if you knew how often they will reduce it if you simply ask!

3. Has your savings stash grown at all in 2018?

Ideally, you have made good on your resolution to build an emergency fund and save for other goals. If you are not on track, begin immediately to save at least a “little” each week.

What can you do about it right now?

One benefit of the Fed’s actions of raising the interest rates is that saving interest rates are also rising almost every day these days. Check online, call or visit your bank, credit union or employer and set up automatic transfers from your paycheck to a retirement fund or savings account. Always pay yourself first. Do it now and get going.

4. Are you contributing to your retirement plan?

Every year, you have an opportunity to build a financial cushion for your retirement years. And each year that you save gives your money an additional year to grow. It is especially vital to participate in an employer-sponsored plan when your employer matches your contribution. Not participating is equivalent to saying “no thank you” to a percentage of your compensation. Does that make any sense?

Even without access to an employer-sponsored plan, most people are eligible to save $5,500 per year ($6,500 if you are age 50 or older) in an individual retirement account (IRA).

What can you do about it right now?

Aim to save at least 10% of your income for retirement, and that means even if you are a 20-something. There is no better time to save for retirement than “right now”!

5. Are you on track with tax payments?

The tax laws changed at the beginning of 2018 and you should have seen at least a small increase in you take-home pay since February. But if you think back to April, when you filed your income tax return, you may have been pleased to get a “big” refund when you did. But as I have said numerous times, getting a refund, or worse “a huge refund”, usually means you have overpaid your withholding tax and you are simply getting a check that is your very own “no-interest” refund of your own money. Wouldn’t it be much better to get that money in every paycheck all year long?

What can you do about it right now?

Perhaps you resolved to update your W-4 form to be sure your tax withholding is accurate. If you have not done so (or checked), do it right now. The government is already reporting that as many as 75% of all Americans are currently being over withheld primarily due to the reduction of taxes and failing to update their W-4 forms.

For those who are self-employed, now is a good time to check on quarterly estimated tax payments. Be sure you have made the payments you need to make, and have a plan for upcoming payments. The IRS Withholding Calculator can help you decide if you need to make adjustments.

While New Year’s is a convenient time to make and track your goals, the mid-year point is a great time look at where you stand and get back on the path toward your financial health. You have ample time to recommit to your 2018 resolutions—or even make new ones—and get on that road to financial freedom this year.

Do you have a plan in place on improving your financial health? Is it working for you? Do you have a budget and are you living at or below it? Are you saving any money right now and if not, why? Is your credit card debt growing? These are some of the real questions that you should ask yourself right now!


    1. Time flies when you’re having fun, Mrs. Groovy. And I’m sure that you have your hands full with all that you’re dealing with these days. It is definitely recommended that everyone take just a few minutes out of their day to re-evaluate where they stand financially and if you find it’s going well, then it’ll ease the rest of 2018 and get you ready for next year. If not, then you know what you need to do.

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