An organized financial life is worth the effort. It can help provide clarity and give peace of mind. But where to start?
We’ve broken down the tasks so you can work on one each month. Then, when the new year starts, you can begin anew. This will help you stay on top of changes in your life and finances and perhaps reduce your stress too.
Your Annual Checklist
☐ January: Set Financial Goals
☐ February: Set Up a Budget
☐ March: Organize Your Tax Documents
☐ April: Make a Debt Paydown Plan
☐ May: Rebalance Your Portfolio
☐ June: Increase Your Retirement Contributions
☐ July: Review Your Estate Plan
☐ August: Shop for New Insurance Policies
☐ September: Cancel Unused Memberships and Subscriptions
☐ October: Donate to Charities
☐ November: Harvest Tax Losses
☐ December: Talk with a Financial Advisor
January: Set Financial Goals
What would you like to achieve this year or in the years ahead? Do you want to buy a new home or take a vacation abroad? Do you want to increase your retirement savings or give more to charity? Write down your goals, when you would like to achieve them by, and their potential costs.
February: Set Up a Budget
Create a budget, or if you already have one, review it. Incorporate the goals you set in January, putting aside enough each month to achieve them by the deadlines you’ve set. You can keep your budget on a spreadsheet or use an online program like YNAB or Mint.
March: Organize Your Tax Documents
If you haven’t already, organize your tax documents and send them to your tax preparer. The earlier you can do this, the better, as tax firms are bustling this time of year.
April: Make a Debt Paydown Plan
Debt can hurt your ability to achieve your goals. Make a plan to reduce your debt. You can knock out your highest-interest balances first, then move on to other debt.
May: Rebalance Your Portfolio
You should have an ideal target allocation for stocks and bonds. Over time, your portfolio will drift from that ideal allocation. Rebalance annually (and after major market moves) to move your portfolio back to the proper weighting of stocks and bonds.
June: Increase Your Retirement Contributions
Review your 401(k) and other retirement accounts, and determine how much more you can contribute to them. If you have an employer match, at least put in enough to get the match. Ideally, you will contribute the maximum that your plan allows to build your retirement savings.
July: Review Your Estate Plan
Are your estate planning documents still current? What about your beneficiaries? Life changes often, and it is easy for estate plan documents to become outdated. Talk to your estate planning attorney to update them. And if you don’t have an estate plan, now’s a great month to get started.
August: Shop for New Insurance Policies
Taking the time to get quotes for everything from homeowner’s or car insurance could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
September: Cancel Unused Memberships and Subscriptions
Magazine subscriptions, gym memberships, app renewals, and so on—these costs are easy to ignore, but they can add up fast. Review your recurring expenses, and determine if you really need or use these items.
October: Donate to Charities
Review the charities you want to support, and make a giving plan for the coming year. You may be eligible for a qualified charitable distribution from your IRA—talk with your financial advisor to see if this would benefit you.
November: Harvest Tax Losses
You can sell off securities that you have lost money on to offset any taxes you would have to pay on gains and income. You have until December 31 to sell those securities. Be aware that you cannot buy the same or substantially identical stock within 30 calendar days of the sale.
December: Talk with a Financial Advisor
Working with a financial advisor can help keep your financial life on track. We recommend you talk to a fiduciary advisor, who will have a legal obligation to put your best interests first in everything they do for you. If you’re interested in seeing how we could help you, we encourage you to reach out to us.