Seven ways to clean your financial house this spring
Spring is on the way. For many of us, the increasingly longer days and warmer weather signify a chance to tidy up and start fresh. If you enjoy the ritual of spring cleaning, why not take time to spruce up your finances as well? The following list is a great place to start:
1. Your goals. If you set New Year’s financial resolutions, now is a good time to evaluate your progress. If you’re on track – excellent! If you’re not where you hoped you’d be, recommit to your goals. Identify what obstacles are in your way and create a plan to overcome them. If you need help deciding what to do next or how to stay on course going forward, consider meeting with a financial advisor who can provide you with a second opinion and help keep you accountable to your progress.
2. Your portfolio. As you evaluate your financial goals, it may be helpful to also review your portfolio, as the two often go hand-in-hand. Take a look at your asset allocation and ask yourself the following questions: Are you still diversified and invested according to your ability to withstand a potential market drop and the timeframe of when you need the money? And, do you understand why you are invested in the assets you have? Answering these questions can help you decide if you need to rebalance your asset allocation or make other adjustments to your investing strategy.
3. Your budget. There’s a good chance that your cash flow needs will vary in the summer months to come. In addition to summer travel, you may need additional funds for things like child care or extracurricular programs while your kids are away from school. Take time to plan ahead now so you can enjoy the summer fun while still feeling confident that you’re prioritizing retirement and other financial goals.
4. Your credit report. Did you know the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — are required by law to provide you with one free credit report annually? Make it a habit each spring to check your credit report. Doing so is a good way to ensure accuracy, protect against identity theft, and help you prepare for what interest rate you may receive if you plan to make a big purchase soon (such as a vacation home or new boat).
5. Your protection needs. While de-cluttering, take time to review life, home, auto and disability insurance policies to make sure you are still satisfied with your level of coverage. If you’ve experienced any life-changing events, such as divorce or the birth of a child, it’s possible that your needs have changed.
6. Your benefits. Even though open enrollment is typically in the fall, spring is a good time to make sure the benefits you selected are being maximized. Scheduling regular appointments with medical professionals, your eye doctor and dentist can be a great place to start. Also, check to see if you’re eligible for any elective benefits you’re considering, such as a new pair of eye glasses or orthodontic work.
7. Your estate plan. Estate planning is important regardless of your net worth. It’s never too early to create or update your will, health care directive, beneficiaries and basic powers-of-attorney – all of which can help your loved ones make decisions in line with your wishes in the event of your death. If giving assets to your loved ones and/or reducing your tax liability are important to you, an estate plan can also help you with strategies to accomplish those goals.
As with many spring cleaning projects, it’s possible to get overwhelmed as you review your finances. If this happens to you, step back and take each task one at a time. A financial advisor in your area can also help you get “unstuck” and identify ways to re-energize your finances.
Randy Groff, ChFC, CLU, CRPC, is a financial adviser with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., in Marshall.