Spring Cleaning Financial Checklist

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Spring has sprung even if it still feels like winter! Everything needs a bit of a dust off, even your money. If you're in the mood to shore things up, here are some ways to get started. Note: If this is all a bit Greek for you, working with a financial planner might be a good idea. Center for Financial Planning is here to help you reach your financial goals.

Goal Setting & Housekeeping

  • Review your current financial goals to see if there's anything you can check off as "achieved".
  • Think about emerging opportunities or frustrations and formulate a goal that you can record. Maybe it's to save up for a new house or pay off a debt. Whatever it is, make a note and set up an achievable plan with a realistic target date to get it done.
  • Don't fall victim to cyber hacks. Review your passwords and security practice to safeguard your accounts.
  • Shred the excess. If you've accumulated paperwork you no longer need, shred and recycle the waste.

Cash Flow & Savings

  • Is your checkbook balanced? Is it time to revisit your personal or family budget? Take this time to see if things are going as planned year to date.
  • Review your loans. With rising interest rates, paying down high interest or rising interest loan account is a good idea. Consider triaging your extra loan payments if you have spare funds, making sure that extra payments are made to the highest interest notes first.
  • Do you have an emergency plan? Evaluate your current emergency reserves. Ideally, they would equal 6-12 months of your living expenses. If not, work on a plan to build up reserves over time.

Retirement Readiness

  • Does your retirement savings rate need a boost? If your retirement contributions need to grow with your paychecks, take this opportunity to boost them up or play catch up.
  • Map your road to retirement. If you're nearing retirement, work with your financial planner to review your retirement needs and understand the possibilities with retirement projections.

Investments

  • Allocation assessment. Has your mix of stocks and bonds drifted from your originally planned balance? Take the opportunity to trade into your preferred zone.
  • Consolidate accounts. If you're practicing diversification by location with lots of loose end accounts lying around, revisit and organize your accounts to make things less complicated.
  • Put some cash to work. If you have extra funds available, consider setting up a monthly-automated investment distribution or making a deposit to your investment accounts to boost your base.

Insurance

  • Bridge your gaps. Have you meant to update your insurance with higher protection for a property or are you just not sure if your coverage is enough? Review your current coverages to make sure your current accounts are priced right with protection to meet your needs.
  • Get your money. If items like health care or day care reimbursements have been piling up, submit them to avoid delays and access your funds.
  • Establish a Health Savings Account. If you are a participant in a high deductible insurance plan, evaluate your options and consider contributing to an HSA. These funds have great tax advantages and can be very handy in retirement.

Taxes

  • You just filed your taxes, hopefully, what should be done differently next year? Spend a bit of time doing a recap of lessons learned and plan accordingly for the coming year.
  • If you got a big refund or unfortunately had a big payment on April 15, review your withholding, estimates, etc. Avoid sending unnecessary money to the IRS or paying a penalty for funds you owed with some forecasting. 
  • Hire a professional. If you've been on the DIY plan but you're in over your head, this is a good time to reach out to a professional to determine if hiring a CPA or tax preparer is right for you.

Estate & Charitable Planning

  • Make sure your documents are relevant. Has estate planning been on your "to do" list for a while? Whether you need to update documents, change your plan, or you're just getting started, commit to tending to these items.
  • Review your beneficiary designations. It might have been a while since you looked at beneficiary designations on retirement accounts or insurance policies. Make sure they're up-to-date and consistent with your current needs.
  • Plan your charitable giving for this year. The 2017 tax bill may have changed the most desirable way to give. Look into bundling your gifts: donor advised funds or qualified charitable distributions if appropriate.

Kids & Education

  • Start your college saving plan. If you have been stressing about college costs rather than doing something about it, look into 529's or request an education analysis from your financial planner.
  • Use the summer break for financial skill building. If your teenagers have summer jobs, your college-bound student doesn't know how to balance a checkbook, or your elementary-aged kid wants to open a lemonade stand, make the most of the summer with some money smart activities for your children.

Did I miss something or do you have a favorite spring financial cleaning tip? Let me know at Melissa.Joy@centerfinplan.com

Melissa Joy, CFP®, CDFA® is Partner and Director of Investments at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® In 2013, Melissa was honored by Financial Advisor magazine in the Research All Star List for the third consecutive year. In addition to her contributions to Money Centered blogs, she writes investment updates at The Center and is regularly quoted in national media publications including The Chicago Tribune, Investment News, and Morningstar Advisor.


Financial Advisor magazine's inaugural Research All Star List is based on job function of the person evaluated, fund selections and evaluation process used, study of rejected fund examples, and evaluation of challenges faced in the job and actions taken to overcome those challenges. Evaluations are independently conducted by Financial Advisor Magazine.

The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete, it is not a statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision, and it does not constitute a recommendation. Opinions expressed in the blog are those of Melissa Joy and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected. Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.