As another year comes to an end, taking a moment to review your finances is a great way to prepare for the new year. Here are 12 steps you can take to review your own finances so you can make necessary adjustments to improve your financial health.
Step 1: Track your spending
Are you being responsible when it comes to tracking your spending? You can do this with a personal financial management tool, like My Financial Partner. You can find out how much you’re spending by reviewing your receipts and checking account statements at the end of each month. Knowing where your money is going will help you learn where to make adjustments and make more responsible spending decisions in the future.
Step 2: Create and stick to a budget
Budgets need to be reviewed and adjusted every few months or so to ensure they still work for your present life circumstances. Fluctuations in consumer prices, your income and various life expenses need to be accounted for in your budget. If your budget no longer works for you, make some changes until it does again.
Step 3: Pay down debt
Take a minute to review where you are in your debt-paying journey. Have you made as much progress as you’d hoped to at this point in time? Can you beef up any payments and make that debt disappear sooner?
Use our free online debt calculators to help you determine if debt consolidation would lower your monthly payment or reduce the amount of interest you would pay. You can also calculate payoff goals to find out what’s realistic for you.
Step 4: Talk money with your partner
Have you had the big money talk with your partner? Talking finances with your partner may not be your idea of a romantic moment, but communicating openly about how to manage your money is a crucial part of having a successful household budget.
Are you remembering to touch base on money matters on a regular basis? You don’t need to have a money talk every week, but it’s a good idea to touch base about your finances regularly, like once or twice a month.
Discuss topics like sharing accounts, dividing expenses, recent purchases, big expenses coming up soon or saving up for a shared dream.
Step 5: Spend mindfully
Review some of your recent purchases. Are you blowing money on stuff you don’t need instead of relieving stress and emotional overload in a healthy way? If so, look for better ways to de-stress and remember to avoid temptation by disabling one-click purchases and staying away from stores that trigger your overspending impulse.
Step 6: Pay it forward
The money, time and smiles we share are the only moments that are truly ours. Are you remembering to pay it forward? You can volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, donate clothing to the less fortunate and help your favorite charity.
Step 7: Pay yourself first
Are you remembering to feed your savings? Remember to prioritize having an emergency fund with three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Once you have that funded, you can work on saving toward long- and other short-term saving goals by automating a monthly transfer from your checking account to your savings account. At this time, you may want to consider increasing the amount you’re putting into savings each month by trimming some discretionary expenses.
Step 8: Know when and how to indulge
Living a spartan lifestyle without any indulgences can make you lose your budget and fast. Instead, make sure you know when and how to indulge. Are you remembering to work your selected just-for-fun expenses into your budget so you can indulge without the guilt? Now is a good time to look back at your indulgences to figure out if they were good uses for your money.
Step 9: Check your credit score
How is your credit score looking? Prioritizing things like paying your bills on time, having a few active credit cards and keeping your credit utilization low, should help improve your credit score. One advantage to maintaining a good credit score is it opens the door to low-interest loans and cheaper insurance rates.
There are three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Each one collects and shares information about your credit usage with potential lenders and financial institutions. Normally, your credit report is available every 12 months from all three credit bureaus. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, online access to your report is now available on a weekly basis for free. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com and follow the prompts.
You can also check your FICO® Credit Score through a feature on our Mobile Banking App.
Step 10: Think about retirement
Have you opened and started saving money in a retirement account at work or personally? Take the time now to review these accounts and to assess whether your funds have reached the place you’d hoped they would by now. If you haven’t started saving for retirement yet, now is the perfect time to start. Even if all you can budget for is a small amount to start, it’s better than not saving anything at all.
If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement account at work, you can open an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) on your own.
Step 11: Start investing
Have you taken the beginner steps toward investing? A crucial part of successful investing is reviewing your portfolio on a regular basis and adjusting as necessary. Make sure your investments are performing well and that your assets are diversified in the most optimal way.
Step 12: Review your overall financial health
In this final step, review your financial health on a regular basis, just as outlined here in the steps above. Don’t forget to maintain each component of your financial wellness to keep it in top shape. Reviewing your financial health on a regular basis is an important part of staying financially fit.