How to Make Your Finances Bloom this Spring
It’s been a long winter and, after a long hibernation, we’re all excited to see buds on the trees and get some vitamin D.
Fresh starts, new beginnings, and all that comes with spring. The good news is that with warmer weather also comes some great opportunities to help your personal finances bloom as well. April is a great time to create a goal and start planting the seeds to help it grow. In this article, we will go over five steps to help you achieve some spring housecleaning and get on track.
Make Some Goals
It’s April. Taxes are (hopefully) filed for the year. So, your first step is deciding what you want to focus on this year financially. Is this the year you start saving more aggressively for retirement? Is this the time to attack credit card debt? Student loans? Or perhaps it’s time to overhaul your budget. Or get your emergency savings in fighting shape. No matter what it is, or how many goals you want to set for yourself, the first step is figuring out what they are.
Find Your Starting Line
Now you know what you want to work on, the next step is finding where you are. April is a great time to get all your ducks in a row. Look at your budget, look at the previous year, and decide what was working, what wasn’t, and how to best get to your goal. It can be a challenge, digging into all the crevices of our finances, but it’s good to do, and yearly. Gather up every stray investment, a stash of cash, and debt owed and take a look at the big picture.
How Can You Get to Your Goal?
You are on track now! You have goals and you found your starting line, if the goals are seeds and the starting line is the dirt in your garden, the next step will be how to get that seed to grow. This is where creating a budget can help. Taking advantage of online money management can gather up all the documents are various accounts and investments you unearthed in the last step and put them together. Two of the lead websites are Mint and Personal Capital. Mint leans more toward budgeting, with Personal Capital has more options toward retirement planning. Both services are free and there are many other types of online financial planning services as well, so do your homework and find one that works best for you. Another option may be seeking out a financial advisor to consult with. When selecting a financial advisor make sure they are qualified, fee-only, and have taken a fiduciary oath. Whether you choose a person or an online personal service, getting all your data in one place will help create a plan to reach your goal. It may involve cutting down on excess spending, upping contributions, or moving your investments around, but no matter what it should help.
As you are flinging open windows and shaking out rugs for spring, your finances could use a freshening up as well. Scheduling a yearly wellness check for your finances is a great tradition to get started in the spring. Run a yearly free credit report and make sure your credit history and info are up to date. After all, in 2017 alone, 143 million individual’s credit report data were leaked and 8 million people reported an error on their credit reports.[i] So, taking the time to take a peek and correct anything inaccurate can save some real headaches. This is also a good time to update any beneficiaries on retirement accounts and life insurance policies. Reviewing your insurance and estate documents is also a good thing to do yearly, making sure everything is in order and up to date. Another yearly housekeeping checkup is to do a portfolio check-in. This is a great time to roll over any old IRAs or 401(k)s leftover from old jobs. This is also the time to look over your investments and potentially rebalance. You want a diversified portfolio and doing a yearly wellness check to make sure everything is working for you and adjusting that which isn’t can make a huge difference long-term.
Take Advantage of Automation
It’s a wonderful age for online banking and automation. So much of our finances can be managed in an out of sight, out of mind sort of way. This may be a good time to set up a direct deposit and have a certain portion go automatically into savings. When 46% of Americans report they could not come up with $400 for an emergency[ii], it’s clear that any available opportunity to help build up savings should be taken advantage of. A lot of bills allow for autopay these days and setting up as many bills to pay themselves can take the stress out of staying on top of them, and avoiding late fees. If credit cards are something of a challenge for you, setting up autopay to pay a fixed amount that is above the minimum that you can afford in your monthly budget, can avoid late fees and help pay down your card with minimal effort on your part. If you don’t have a high credit card balance, you may want to set it to pay it off in full each month which can give your credit rating a bump.[iii]
Garden in Bloom
By making April a time to do a little financial housekeeping, you can set a pattern going forth of efficiency and proactivity in your finances. You can rest easy knowing that your paperwork is current and in order, your investments are on track and that your financial information is accurate. It’s a wonderful way to crawl out of hibernation and start a new season dropping the cumbersome weight of winter and stepping into the sun.
About the Author
Bob feels strongly that you only retire once leaving no room for mistakes. He is dedicated to building and more importantly preserving investors assets. Bob is a Financial Advisor with Cambridge, an independent broker-dealer, honored to be among the most respected firms in the industry.