You’ve taken a vacation, read a few good books, spent time with your kids, and gotten together with friends this summer, but it feels like something’s missing…
Oh, right -- you forgot to check on your finances! Well, no wonder. With the consistently bullish year we have experienced so far, you may have been tempted to focus on other things in your life and let your money take care of itself. But before you doze off in your pool chair or tee off one more time this summer, take some time to assess your financial wellbeing with these tips:
- Take stock. Remember those financial goals you wrote down in January? Get out your list and check your progress. If your situation has changed (for example, you’ve received an inheritance, gotten a promotion, had a baby or experienced some other life-changing event), you will need to make adjustments as needed. Are you saving for a new home, a second home, a child’s college tuition, or retirement? Examine whether you need to save more to compensate for increasing costs. While you’re at it, you should also check your accounts to make sure your beneficiaries are up to date and consistent with your will.
- Review your portfolio. When you started investing, you likely made some assumptions about how much risk you were willing to take. Has anything changed that would make you accept more or less risk now? Next, consider your allocations, and whether they still match your investment mix. If your allocation is more than 5 percent different from your targeted mix, consider rebalancing. In addition, check the performance of your specific investments, and see whether anything has changed in a fund’s investment approach.
- Start thinking about your taxes. Doing so this early in the year means you still have time to mitigate any tax consequences. Consult with your tax professional or CPA and get an estimate of the taxes you may owe for this year, and then discuss your options. If you decided to move any of your investment gains to cash, you may be able to offset them with losses from this year or ones carried over from the previous year.
- Donate to charity. Can you afford to provide a gift to your favorite charity? Donating now will not only help the charity; it will help you minimize your tax expenses. Remember, you may be able to donate in monthly installments through your checking account or credit card, and some employers even match employee donations. Another option could include donating a vehicle, which would enable you to make a larger donation all at once.
- Save more, and spend less. This often tops the list of New Year’s resolutions for many people. Six months on, how much are you saving? Is there any way to spend less so you can boost your savings for the rest of the year? Will you be able to cover holiday expenses at your current savings rate?
- Shop around for lower fees and higher interest. Even though the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates twice, few banks have boosted the interest they pay on customer accounts. However, it doesn’t hurt to look for a checking account or a money-market that pays higher interest than your existing account. At the same time, review any credit card fees and other bank fees you are paying and look for ways to cut those. Add up all the savings and invest them in your higher-earning accounts!
- Review your 401(k) contributions. Are you taking full advantage of the opportunity to contribute? If you aren’t, could you afford to increase your contribution for the rest of the year? Doing so can lower your taxable income even more.
For more ideas on conducting a mid-year financial review, check out this fun infographic from Credit Sesame, or, better yet -- contact us at M.J. Smith & Associates. Our firm specializes in helping clients benefit from a comprehensive understanding of their financial situation, and we would be pleased to provide you with a complimentary, no-obligation portfolio review.
Any opinions are those of Drew Harper and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Every investor's situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.