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While most families wait until the New Year – presumably after setting goals for the upcoming year – to get their finances in order, there’s no reason to waste precious months when you can get tackle them now!
With a full two months remaining in 2012, there’s no better time to give yourself a full financial review and make sure you’re doing all you can to set your family (and your future) up for success in 2013.
10 Steps to Get Your Finances in Order Today
1. Review Your Budget (or Create Your First One)
If you’re anything like me odds are that you relax on your budget from time-to-time. As the holidays approach and lives become hectic with fall activities, take a step back and analyze your spending patters over the last few months. If you’ve gone a little overboard with groceries or eating out, refocus your efforts and keep yourself accountable to your goals over the next few months.
If you’ve yet to establish your first budget, whether individually or as a family, there is no better time than today to get started. Schedule a meeting with your wife to talk about where you’re at in life and where you want to go. There isn’t anything more important than communicating with your wife and establishing your first budget together.
2. Develop a Debt Payoff Strategy
If you carry a credit card balance or have student loan, vehicle, or medical debt, then focus on coming up with a debt payoff strategy. Whether you follow the Dave Ramsey philosophy of paying debts down from smallest to largest, or prefer the mathematical approach of paying down the high-interest rate debt first, the only part that matters is that you develop a strategy of some sort.
While some may prefer traditional debt payoff strategies, others may need to consider debt consolidation or analyze the chance to save hundreds of dollars in interest by transferring high-interest credit card balances to 0% balance transfer cards.
3. Analyze Your Asset Allocation
Reviewing your various investment accounts and rebalancing your portfolio is a must. At a minimum this should be done on an annual basis and some suggest doing it quarterly. If you’ve never taken the time to determine how your investments should be allocated, then consider doing some research on the topic over the next few weeks or consult with a financial advisor and get some professional guidance.
4. Shop Your Insurance Rates
There isn’t a more common area where people “set it and forget it.” It’s too easy to get complacent and stay with the same insurance carrier for years; so, if you haven’t shopped your auto and home insurance rates in awhile then make it one of the first things you do. Odds are that you’re losing precious dollars (often hundreds) each year.
5. Analyze Your Bank Accounts
As our society becomes more reliant on technology, more businesses are finding ways to offer services online. Along those lines we’ve seen a major shift in the way banking is being done these days.
If you still hold your cash at the traditional brick-and-mortar banks and have been reluctant to change to some of the best online banks of 2012, then you’re likely not maximizing your debit card rewards (checking accounts) or interest rates on CDs and Savings Accounts.
6. Maximize Your Employee Benefits
As many employers have open enrollment this time of year, make sure you thoroughly review and maximize all of the benefits they offer. Particularly, make sure you’re taking advantage of the FULL company match in your employer’s retirement plan. If you’re not sure how much your company matches, then make it a point to find out over the next few weeks.
7. Max Out a Roth IRA
If you’re taking full advantage of your employer’s match, then focus on maximizing out a Roth IRA. While you technically have until tax day next year to make contributions for 2012, it’s not a bad thing to reach the $5,000 limit (if you’re under age 50; $6k if you’re over 50) before the year is out.
8. Draft a Will
A personal goal for my wife and I this quarter is to get a will. The majority of Americans die without a will and it’s due to nothing more than being lazy and lacking priorities. Visit a site like USLegalForms.com or contact a lawyer that will help you draft one. If you have valuables or children, then getting a will has to be something that you accomplish before the end of the year.
9. Review Your Mortgage
While many people have taken advantage of the great interest rates, there are still a lot of people out there that haven’t. With rates at near all-time lows, it’s possible to replace your 30-year mortgage and get on a 20-year loan while keeping your payments the same.
10. Set Financial and Personal Goals for 2013, Now
While I’ve given you plenty of goals to focus on over the next few months, it’s important that you get in the habit of making goals on a monthly and quarterly basis. Goals help to keep you focused and motivated as you work on getting out of debt or whether you’re building wealth and trying to knock some items off your bucket list.
Author Bio: Jason is a financial advisor and Dave Ramsey-trained counselor that blogs over at WorkSaveLive. He aims to educate his readers on a variety of financial topics while sharing his family’s journey out of debt.