The first 3 months of the year has seen its share of victories and challenges. As many of us begin to settle into the “New Normal” following the global COVID-19 pandemic, you might be asking the question “Am I still on track to reach my financial goals?” Whether you’re already in retirement or just started your financial journey, the start of summer is a great time to review your plan.
This year summer may have started early for most of us but before we get too involved with summer vacations, backyard BBQs, kids’ sports (Mainly the American Pastime -Baseball), and home projects let’s take a few moments to see where we stand.
Review your Budget
I know, I just said a dirty word. Budget, there I said it again. For many of us, the “Budget” word can bring to the surface all sorts of emotions. I like what Dave Ramsey has to say about this. “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” If you don’t have a budget, it’s ok. You’re not alone. In my career, it’s been my experience that most families don’t have it all together, financially, much less a budget. While it can be a pain to keep up with, it can not only keep you on track to meet your financial goals but it can also serve to grant you a little peace about your situation.
Create a Spending Plan
Once you’ve created and/or updated your budget, let’s then consider the next 12 months. This idea might hold more importance if you follow the recent events of COVID-19 but this is a great exercise at any point in
- Make sure you have money set aside for emergencies or the next big purchase. This is a great conversation to have with your FA as they can help you with any expenses you may have coming up. They can also help you figure out where the money may come from and what effect it will have on your long-term goals.
Since different types of investment accounts have different tax implications, your Financial Advisor or CPA can help you determine how to best plan for these upcoming expenses. That leads us to our next item on the checklist.
Consider Tax-Savings Opportunities
Don’t forget about your retirement account contributions for 2020. Many of the rules around these have changed this year and you might be able to boost your savings or at least catch up from any setbacks that the beginning of the year has cost you.
- Take a look at your budget and see where you can trim and allow yourself the benefit of maxing out your contributions. By doing this, you’re not just putting money away for retirement but you might also be reducing your income taxes for 2020.
- Determine if you should start and/or increase your contributions to a Health Savings Account or HSA. This can be a great way to save for medical expenses and a way to save on taxes, especially if you are a high-income earner.
- Review your Tax-loss strategy with your FA to see if there’s a possibility that you could offset gains that you have in other investments while keeping your overall investment strategy in tack. Does your current investment plan have a Tax Strategy? One thing COVID-19 did for investors, is it allows for the opportunity to utilize tax-loss harvesting.
Get Your Debt Under Control
While many will argue that there is “good debt” and “bad debt”, what the current pandemic has done is to expose the problems having debt can cause.
- Create a plan to tackle our debt. We do this so that when “Next Time” comes (yes there will be a next time), we just might be one of the ones who rise above the crisis and not fall victim to it.
- Start by building your emergency savings first. Yes, I said first. If we don’t have an emergency fund, paying off credit card debt is temporary. We know that as soon as a crisis hits and we have no emergency fund, the credit cards are the first things we max out.
- Next pay off your higher-interest debt. There no sense in giving away money that you could be saving. This is money that we could be putting away for our retirement or using to spoil our kids with.
- Save for the things you want. Showing a little restraint, and a little patience can save you money down the road.
Review Your Estate Plan
Having an up-to-date Estate Plan is an important part of any Financial Plan regardless of what stage you’re in.
- Have a Review Scheduled for your plan. You should have a set schedule on your calendar for when you will review your Financial Plan with your Financial Advisor. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve met with someone who hasn’t looked at their plan in years. Come to find out that the plan that they started years ago, no longer fits their current situation. At the very least you should review this plan annually and then any time there’s a major change in your financial life (i.e. loss of a job, pay raise, baby on the way, relocation). Your FA can help you in adjusting your plan so that way when the next crisis hits, you’re prepared.
We know that financial check-ups may not be as exciting as taking a summer cruise, spending time at a beach house, or backpacking across the Himalayas, but they should always be a part of your summer routine. The average American spends more time planning for these types of vacations than planning for retirement. Now is a good time to be anything but average and assess the progress you are making toward important financial life goals. After all, we are not meant to be Average, we are meant to be Awesome.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC
There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.