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While we may all have holidays on our minds, the end of the year is rapidly approaching. That means you should probably make some plans for New Year’s, but we’re not quite done with 2016 yet! After all, you probably had some financial goals set in the beginning of the year, and it’s time to perform a year end review. Not only is it important to track where you’ve been, but it will help set you up to start 2017 off right.
Your Year End Financial Review
Ok, let’s dig out those goals you wrote down last January. Hopefully you’ve seen them on a regular basis, but they may have been hiding in a pile of papers. How did you perform compared to your goals? If you didn’t come close, you may need to re-evaluate how you set your targets, for example, was it a S.M.A.R.T. goal? If you did come close, but didn’t quite make it, now’s the time to evaluate what happened to prevent that goal and how you could have done things differently. If you made the goal, congrats to you! But wait, if you achieved it too easily, perhaps your objectives weren’t enough of a reach in the first place. And finally, if you didn’t set any financial goals, why not? Did you achieve what you wanted?
Looking at your goals not only holds you accountable to them, but can help shape your goals and behavior for next year. Take some time to picture where you want to be financially next year at this time, and make the appropriate goals to get there. Review your goals at least monthly to make sure you’re making the progress you want.
Whether or not you had a specific income goal in mind, you should take a few minutes to review your income. Depending on your circumstances, this could involve your salary and whether or not you received a raise and/or bonus. But it could also involve side hustles or a business of your own. Did you meet the income part of your budget this year?
While you can cut your spending or move it around between categories, raising your income is generally the most significant adjustment you make to your budget. What ways can you earn more in the new year?
Whether you budget with a lot of specific categories, or just a couple, review where your money went this year. Did it go towards what’s important to you or did you fritter it away on conveniences or impulse buys? Take a good hard look at any habits you need to change and make gradual adjustments.
Don’t just evaluate the discretionary funds, but also your “fixed” monthly bills. Would downsizing your home or your car help your financial goals? How about cutting the cord on cable or reducing your smartphone data plan?
How did you do on your saving this year? What was your saving rate (% of income saved)? Do you have a stocked emergency fund? Do you have other savings for short and long term saving goals?
If you didn’t save much this year, now’s the time to plan how you’re going to improve that in the coming year. Increase income, reduce spending, or both, and make sure the difference goes into saving with automatic transfers.
Also take a look at your investments, both retirement and any after-tax investments. How did your investments perform this year? What did those investments cost you? Are you satisfied with your portfolio? It’s also time to look at your asset allocation and rebalance your portfolio to reflect your risk tolerance and maintain diversity in your investments.
Your net worth is your assets minus your debts and gives you a good “big picture” number of how you’re doing. But it generally doesn’t move around that much so if you don’t monitor it monthly, at least check it once a year. Compare it to prior months/years to make sure you’re moving in the right direction! Or use a tracking tool like Personal Capital to view it any time you like.
You thought you had until April 15th to deal with taxes, but why not start while it’s fresh in your mind and you can still affect the outcome? First, you’ll want to review any year end tax moves that may improve your situation. Especially if you haven’t met your retirement planning goals for the year, you may be able to sock away more money and avoid being taxed on it.
Gather together any documents or receipts you’ll need for your tax returns so you’ll be ready when those W-2’s and 1099’s come rolling in. And most importantly, take a look at your tax situation to see if you need to make changes in 2017. This may mean updating your W-4 withholding or perhaps making quarterly tax payments on your successful side hustle.
If you haven’t recently, it’s an excellent time to review your credit rating. You can obtain your current credit score and credit report at WalletHub (updated daily). Be sure to review your entire credit report for mistakes.
Your credit score can affect things like your job prospects, loan interest rates, auto insurance rates and more. If your credit score isn’t as high as you’d like to be, make it a goal to improve your score. You may need to start paying your bills on time (which you should do anyway!), reduce your debt, or even increase your credit line to reduce your utilization.
Protect your most important investments with insurance coverage. If you want to get healthcare coverage through the Healthcare.gov exchange, you have just a few days left to enroll for 2017 (open enrollment for Medicare recipients has already closed). Make sure you understand the terms of your policy.
Next up, you want to make sure your home and car are protected. Review your homeowners/renters insurance and auto insurance to see where you may be able to save, perhaps by going with a different insurer.
Protecting your income is key, so make sure you have some form of long term disability insurance. According to Social Security, 1 in 4 20-year-olds entering the workforce will be disabled at some point in their careers before reaching age 67. Make sure you’ll be covered if it happens to you.
And finally, review your life insurance. Evaluate your benefit amount to be sure it is appropriate and of course review your beneficiaries for any changes that may have occurred during the year.
See, a year end review wasn’t so painful, was it? And now you’ll be ready to ring in the new year knowing where you stand and where you’re headed.
Do you perform a year end financial review? What areas do you cover? Do you set annual goals?