Getting Your Finances in Order: A Q1 Check-Up

Copy of 2019 Market Outlook

A financial new year checklist can help you avoid debt, save money, and prepare for years to come. Here, we’ll discuss some steps you can take to streamline your finances and make 2022 the best year yet for your bank account and your family’s future.

Budget

Understanding where your money is going each month will help you see areas where you can cut down on spending and save money instead.

To create a new budget, start by listing all of your monthly expenses – from the essentials, such as a mortgage, food, and utilities – to the wants, such as new clothes or new gadgets. Once you’ve done this, you can easily see where your money is going and where adjustments can be made.

Allocate Funds to Paying Down Outstanding Debt

Look back over the past few months to see if you can adjust any budget areas to help you allocate more funds to savings. By prioritizing which expenses are more important than others, you can adjust your new budget more efficiently and satisfy the new spending limits you’ve set. Extra money can then be saved and used to pay off debts.

Review Any Subscriptions And Monthly Bills

Monthly subscriptions and services are often overlooked since many consumers have them set to be recurring payments. If you’re no longer using something, cancel it! Even the small charges add up in the end.

Shop Around For Cheaper Auto And Home Insurance

Many people get comfortable with their auto and homeowner’s insurance plans and forget that new, cheaper options may be available. Shop around to find new quotes and new plans to potentially save hundreds of dollars every year.

Consider Life Insurance Needs

If you have new dependents who would be financially impacted by your death, consider if your coverage is enough to ensure their financial situation is stable and secure. Reevaluate your family’s situation annually. Term insurance can be purchased for 10 or 20-year terms which is enough time to cover getting a child through college.

Reevaluate Assets And Liabilities

Take a closer look at your assets and liabilities. Assets are things like savings and investments. While these aren’t necessarily liquid (meaning you can’t immediately cash them in for money), they can appreciate in value over time and can grow to significant amounts. Here are some specific things to take a closer look at.

Take Advantage Of Your Retirement Savings Accounts

You should take full advantage of the savings available through your employer. Are you contributing the maximum amount to your 401k, for example? The maximum contribution for 2022 is $20,500 plus an additional $6,500 for those age 50 or older. Many employers will match the percentage of the money you put into your savings plan. A common practice is that the employer will match 50% of what the employee contributes, up to 3% of your salary. So if you contribute 6%, your employer will match 3%. It’s essential to determine your company’s specific policies to take advantage of this opportunity and make the most of your savings plan.

If you are self-employed and do not have an employer retirement plan, you have several options including creating a SIMPLE IRA, SEP-IRA, Solo 401k, or a defined benefit plan. Each plan offers various levels of tax-deferred savings of which you should consider taking advantage.

Take A Close Look At Your Investments

Making it your practice to review your investment portfolio at least once a year is a good habit to have. Be sure to review your asset allocation in light of your risk tolerance. Does it still reflect your values as an investor, and is it performing as you need it to meet your long-term goals? Is it time to make some changes?

You can work with a financial advisor to review all of these things and see if any areas need improvement.

Consider Refinancing Your Debt or Mortgage

If you have high-interest loans, refinancing may help you take advantage of current interest rates to save money in the long run. Interest rates have begun inching higher so you should act quickly.

The recent real estate market increases can mean a great deal of savings when you refinance your home mortgage. If you have a home loan and didn’t put 20% down, you may still be paying for Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). When you refinance, the bank will re-appraise your home, and you may now have enough equity to remove the PMI, effectively saving you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

You may also want to research the current mortgage rates, and if the rate you received when you purchased your home is more than the current rates, you may want to consider refinancing even though you may have missed the most current bottom in interest rates.

And refinancing doesn’t stop with mortgages. You can also refinance other high-interest debts and negotiate your loan into new, lower interest rates that can save you money.

Pull Your Free Credit Report

You can get a free credit report from each of three major agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once per year. Review your credit report and make sure all of its information is accurate.

You can also pull your free credit report to investigate any new accounts that have been opened. If you see any unknown charges, contact the company to ensure that they are authorized.

new year checklist - compiling tax documents
Compiling Tax Documents

Start Compiling Tax Documents

The new year is a good time to gather all of your tax documents in one place so that when it’s time to file, you’ll be ready. Keep track of documents such as:

  • W-2 forms from your employer(s)
  • 1099 forms – reports other income received during the year, including self-employment, interest, dividends, and realized capital gains.
  • Records of charitable donations – this can include cash or non-cash (vehicles, property, etc.) donations.
  • Records of any expenses you had for tax-deductible purposes – this can include moving costs, home office expenses, and qualified educational expenses.
  • Records of medical or dental expenses – you can deduct these if they exceed a certain percentage of your AGI.
  • Records of property taxes paid – you can deduct these if they exceed a certain percentage of your AGI.
  • 1099R forms that show distributions from a traditional IRA.

After you’ve compiled all of these documents, make sure to hang on to them for at least three years.

Review/Update Your Will And Retirement Account Beneficiaries

If it has been a few years since you last updated your Last Will and Testament, take the time to review it with fresh eyes and make any necessary changes. You want to ensure that your assets are transferred to your intended beneficiaries as smoothly as possible.

Likewise, if you have one or more retirement accounts, check all of your beneficiary designations on those accounts. This can usually be done by logging in to your account and viewing them online. If you cannot see them online, call the custodian and ask what they are. Make sure that they are still the beneficiaries you want.

If you haven’t already done so, take the time to create a will. If you don’t have a solid estate plan, you can take the time to make sure that all your assets are titled in a way that will protect them and ensure that they go to the right people.

If you have a living trust, be sure that your assets are titled in the name of your trust. The assets in the trust will not go through probate when you die, saving your heirs the cost of probate, but they have to be titled correctly.

If you are married, make sure that your savings and non-IRA investment accounts, if not in a trust, are titled in both your and your spouse’s names, known as joint tenants by the entirety in Florida.

Set Goals For The New Year

It’s not too late! To help you stay on track, think about the essential things you’d like to accomplish in the coming year. Start a list of goals for 2022.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Improve your credit score
  • Save for retirement
  • Save up an emergency fund
  • Start an investment account for your child or grandchild
  • Update your will, healthcare surrogate and living will
  • Create a plan for bill paying
  • Get a head start on your 2022 taxes by having all of your tax documents ready.
  • Get out of debt
  • Create or update your estate plan

Takeaway

Following this new year’s financial checklist is a great way to start with a clean slate and keep your future in order.

A trusted financial planner can help you accomplish your goals and start your year on the right foot. Contact Castle Wealth to discuss your individual needs and get a financial plan in place for 2022 and beyond!

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