Remember when you were in your early 20’s and your main objective was to have fun? Now, you may be married, with kids and a mortgage. You are the picture of adulting. You’ve checked off some items on your bucket list. You’re in your prime. You’ve put money in a 401(k) but you’re not sure when you can retire, or if you’re doing enough. It’s essential to put a plan in place now.
Now is the perfect time to take an assessment of your financial health. Just as you visit your physician for an annual checkup, it’s important to take stock of your finances every year, because it pays to be prepared.
What is Financial Health?
Your financial health is a measure of your money flow: what you bring in, what you save, and what you spend.
Some people might put it off. And that’s understandable. It’s a daunting proposition to take an objective look at your financial picture. Rest assured. Even if the outcome of your checkup is less than ideal, gathering information gives you a baseline from which to grow your wealth. Be optimistic. You may discover that you’re in better financial shape than you imagined.
Here are six topics to explore during a financial health check. While this list isn’t exhaustive, it will give you an excellent jumping off point for future discussions with a wealth advisor. Open a spreadsheet, or go old school with pen and paper.
If you’re married, do both partners bring in a paycheck or have another form of income, such as dividends from investments or profits from a business? For most, your income from your career is your best asset. Perhaps you have an annual bonus or company equity that you want to consider for investment opportunities. Record your current monthly income.
Some people spend less than they make. Others spend more. It’s important to balance future goals with today’s spending so that you can enjoy your life while keeping goals in mind. Gather information on all the things you spend money on, including fixed and discretionary expenses. Examples include mortgage or rent payments, taxes, insurance, loans, credit cards, groceries, subscriptions, tuition, medical bills, legal fees, and travel. You may also be responsible for the expenses of elderly parents.
Paying Those Bills
Do you pay your bills on time, or do you find yourself juggling? Keeping all of your bills current and paid in full every month ensures a higher credit score. When you fall behind, you may end up paying late fees and interest, all of which must be deducted from your monthly income.
How much do you have set aside for an unexpected turn of events? Suppose you or your partner loses a job or experiences a downturn in health. The common wisdom is to have three to six months of expenses in savings so that you are free from worry.
Long Term Goals
We all have dreams and plans for the future. What are yours? Of course, everyone wants to retire comfortably. That’s only one aspect of future planning. Some examples include travel, a second home, your children’s and grandchildren’s education, future weddings, or starting a business. As you make more money, it’s easy to find yourself spending on more expensive things, so keep an eye on the choices you’re making.
Plan Ahead Financially
Do you have investments and savings? When is the last time you checked your 401(k)? Are you invested in a way that matches your risk tolerance? Some people invest in stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Others put money into real estate. If your cash is sitting in a low return savings account, you aren’t maximizing your investments. Make your money work for you.
Live Your Best Life
Congratulations! You’ve done the hard work of taking an honest look at your financial health. It’s the first step toward achieving your goals, which should include excellent credit, a handle on your debt, an emergency fund, and investments that will allow you to retire comfortably. The next step is to find a team of financial professionals who will help you achieve all that you dream.
To learn more about working with a wealth advisor, contact our team.
Download this useful month-by-month checklist for managing your finances, career, family and life, and community contributions to help you live the life you want today and in the future.