Shari Mattingly Bevan outlines the eight steps you should take this summer to get your finances in order.
People rarely want to think about their finances during the summer, but by taking a few simple steps, you can ensure that your finances are in good shape heading into the fall. Shari Mattingly Bevan, Attorney, Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), and CEO of Bevan Wealth & Tax Strategies, Inc., outlines the eight steps you should take this summer to get your finances in order.
Step 1: Analyze Your Budget
One of the best ways to get your finances in order is to analyze your budget. This will help you to see where your money is going and where you can cut back. The first step is to figure out your monthly income. This can be from a job, investments, or other sources. Next, list out all of your expenses. Include fixed expenses like rent or mortgage payments and variable expenses like food and entertainment. Finally, compare your income and expenses to see where you can make changes. If your expenses are higher than your income, you’ll need to find ways to reduce your spending. On the other hand, if you have extra money each month (positive cash flow), you can consider investing it or using it to pay down debt. Analyzing your budget is the first step to improving your financial situation.
Step 2: Seek Out Tax Savings
One of the best ways to save money is to take advantage of tax savings. There are several ways to do this, but the first step is to seek out tax-advantaged accounts. These include 401(k)s and IRAs, which can help you save on your taxes now and in the future. Another way to save on taxes is to invest in tax-efficient investments. These include index funds and ETFs, which tend to have lower expense ratios and generate less taxable income than actively-managed funds. Finally, take advantage of any tax breaks you may be eligible for, such as the student loan interest deduction or the child care tax credit.
Step 3: Tackle Your Debt.
By closely examining your debt, you can develop a plan to pay it off and make headway on becoming debt-free. There are a few key steps to take when tackling your debt. First, calculate how much you owe. This includes not only credit card debt but also any outstanding student loans, medical bills, or other debts. Once you know how much you owe, you can develop a plan to pay it off. You may want to consider Consolidation Loans or another type of debt relief program. You can also work on negotiating lower interest rates or payment terms with your creditors. Once you’ve tackled your debt, you can start working on building up your savings. Try setting aside a small amount each month to create an emergency fund, and start taking advantage of any employer matching programs that might be available.
Step 4: Revisit Short and Long-Term Goals.
What do you hope to accomplish financially in the next year? In the next five years? In retirement? Once you’ve identified your goals, you can start working on a plan to achieve them. If you don’t have a specific goal, that’s OK, too. A summer financial checkup is also an excellent time to assess your overall financial health and ensure you are on the right track. Here are a few suggestions: (a) Are you saving enough for retirement? (b) Do you have enough life insurance? (c) Do you have any outstanding debts that you need to pay off? (d) Are there any ways to reduce or minimize your taxes? Answering these questions can help put you on the path to financial success.
Step 5: Evaluate Coverage and Providers.
Insurance is one of the essential types of coverage, but it can also be one of the most expensive. If you are not careful, you could end up paying too much for your coverage or being underinsured. That is why doing a summer financial checkup of your health insurance coverage is essential. Start by evaluating your range of coverage and ensuring it still meets your needs. Do you still have the same job? Are your dependents still on your plan? Have you moved to a new state? These are all factors that can affect your coverage requirements. Once you’ve determined that your coverage is still adequate, look at your providers. Are you still using the same service providers? If not, you may be able to save money by switching to a new plan with different in-network providers. Finally, review your budget and ensure you can still afford your insurance premiums. If your income has changed or if you have had unexpected expenses, you may need to adjust your budget to accommodate your insurance costs.
Step 6: Reassess and Rebalance Your Portfolio.
First, take a look at your asset allocation. This mix of stocks, bonds, and other assets in your portfolio. Over time, your asset allocation may become imbalanced, meaning that one type of asset is overweighted relative to others. For example, if you’ve had a strong year for stocks, you may now be overexposed to equities. Rebalancing your portfolio will restore your desired asset allocation, and help reduce risk. Next, review your investment expenses. These are the fees you pay for things like investment management and transaction costs. Investment expenses can significantly reduce your overall returns, so keeping them reasonable is important. If you are paying too much in fees, consider switching to lower-cost investments. Finally, take a look at your tax situation. With the new tax law in effect, many investors are facing higher taxes on their investment income. But you can use strategies to lessen the tax bite, such as investing in tax-advantaged accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s.
Step 7: Review Your Retirement Savings
One crucial area to focus on is your retirement savings. If you haven’t already done so, now is a good time to review your 401(k) or IRA account statements and make sure you are on target to reach your retirement goals. In addition, now is also an excellent time to consider whether you should contribute more to your retirement account. Increasing your contributions, even by a small amount, can make a big difference in the long run. So, take some time this summer to review your retirement savings and ensure you are on track for a comfortable retirement.
Step 8: Assess Your Estate Plan
A key part of financial planning is ensuring your estate is in order. There are a few different elements to consider when estate planning, including wills and trusts. These legal documents allow you to specify how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. A power of attorney is a document granting someone else the legal authority to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. A health care directive document specifies your wishes for medical treatment if you cannot communicate them yourself.
Shari Mattingly Bevan is the founder of Bevan Wealth & Tax Strategies, with decades of experience in the financial services industry. She began her career in retirement advising and insurance services while attending law school. She also has twenty-two years of experience as an estate planning attorney, a Chartered Financial Consultant, and a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU). The breadth of her experience in financial services and legal matters culminates to assisting clients broadly in comprehensive financial planning services for individuals, families, and businesses. The firm takes a holistic approach to wealth management, helping clients to identify their goals and create a plan to achieve them. Bevan Wealth & Tax Strategies, Inc. offers a wide range of services, including retirement planning, investment management, estate planning, and tax planning. The firm also assists clients with their estate and tax planning needs. As a result of all her education and experience, Shari Mattingly Bevan is uniquely positioned to help her clients build, protect and transfer their wealth.
Investment advisory services are offered through CreativeOne Wealth, LLC, an Investment Advisor. Bevan Wealth & Tax Strategies, Inc. and CreativeOne Wealth, LLC are not affiliated.