Many people are inundated by a constant stream of financial news from television, radio, and the Internet. Yet, does all this information and real-time data help you manage your finances any better than in the past?
The truth often is that the “old-fashioned” practices, such as periodic financial reviews, lead to greater success in the long run. Why not spend a few hours reviewing your finances as the year passes its midpoint? The changes you make today could yield positive results in increased savings.
Here are some essential items to cover:
Analyze your cash flow. A positive cash flow is when your income is higher than your expenses. A negative cash flow happens when your expenditures exceed your income. A positive cash flow means you may have funds to set aside as savings. A negative cash flow can indicate that it may be a good idea to reorganize your budget to minimize unnecessary expenses.
Develop a plan for special goals. For every financial goal you establish, identify a projected cost, a time horizon (how long it will take to reach the goal), and a funding method (either through savings, liquidating assets, or taking a loan). Consider your objectives in terms of a “hierarchy of importance.”
Boost your retirement savings. Pensions and Social Security may not provide sufficient income to maintain your current lifestyle when you retire. Thus, it is essential to identify your retirement needs and plan a disciplined savings program for the future. Maximize your contributions to retirement accounts, and if possible, make ‘catch-up” contributions.
Minimize income taxes. Why give Uncle Sam any more of your money than is necessary? It is in your best interest to take advantage of all income tax deductions to which you are entitled. Consider exploring any possible ways of reducing your income taxes. For instance, losses or expenses from prior years may be carried over to the next tax year under appropriate circumstances. A qualified tax professional can help you implement a tax strategy that meets your needs.
Beat inflation. Your income and retirement savings must keep pace with inflation to maintain your buying power. This means that if the inflation rate is currently 3%, you need to achieve at least a 3% annual increase in income to maintain your buying power (inflation is presently more than 8%, but hopefully, it reverts back to its 100-year average of about 3%).
In the long run, a decline in purchasing power will result in a lower standard of living. Thus, you must be sure your money is hard at work beating inflation.
Manage unexpected risks. As you undoubtedly know, life can sometimes throw you a “curve ball.” Without warning, a disability or untimely death can cause financial hardship for your family. Adequate insurance is an essential foundation for your financial plan – it offers the protection you need to help cover potential risks and liabilities.
Consult a financial professional. Everyone needs help when it comes to making informed decisions in today’s complex financial world. A qualified financial professional can help ensure your financial affairs are consistent with your current and long-term goals and objectives.
A mid-year review can help bring focus to your overall financial picture. In the future, you will have the opportunity to alter your plans as your goals and circumstances change. By faithfully tracking your progress with periodic reviews, you will be in a better position to realize the future and the retirement of your dreams.