A Plan For Taking ONE Simple Step Each Month to Get Your Finances in Order

By on February 21, 2019
Finances

You’ve resolved to get a handle on your finances in 2019, but there are only so many hours in the day. As work speeds up and life makes other demands, all of your good intentions transform right back into the same old habits and games of catch-up on money matters.

To reach any goal, it’s important to create benchmarks and clearly lay out the steps to achieving them. Think of your household like a business. Much like a corporation must meet dates on a yearly financial calendar – scheduling annual reviews of budgets and financials, succession plans and income tax filings – should you create a year-long plan that will keep you on track.

Setting up your financial calendar will help to ensure that you don’t miss any important dates and that you are regularly monitoring what needs to be reviewed, allowing you to maximize your finances and minimize your expenses. While your financial calendar can have more than one action item per month, I recommend sticking to just one, as outlined below. This will keep you accountable year-round without consuming your life with financial admin.

Here are the MOST important action items each month to keep your finances in shape:

  • January: Review your budget and cash flow as well as your net worth statement. This lets you see how you did last year and if you want to make any changes for the new year. Before you can make any financial decisions, you need to know where you are.
  • February: Organize your financial documents from the prior year to prepare for taxes. It’s like spring cleaning for your finances.
  • March: Review your investments and allocations. Your investment allocations may change due to changes in goals, stage of life or uneven performance. You’ll want to make sure you are still on track for major goals such as retirement savings. You should also review your investments to check for options that may perform better or have lower fees and expenses. 
  • April: File federal and state income tax returns. Tax returns are due on April 15 (if April 15 is on a weekend, the IRS and individual states usually extend the due date to the following Monday, but check the IRS and your state’s tax websites to confirm). Request extension(s) if necessary. States have different rules, so check with your state tax authority. Fines and penalties can be assessed for missing deadlines.
  • May: Order credit reports. You are entitled to order a free copy of your credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) every 12 months. (This website is the only one that is government authorized to provide you with free copies of your credit report.)
  • June: Review retirement plan contributions and projections to see if you are on target. There are many free retirement calculators available online. If you have a retirement plan through a large employer or with an investment firm such as Schwab, Vanguard or Fidelity, they have free tools and will already have some or all of your information.
  • July: Hold a family financial meeting. Review old goals and set new ones. Be sure to invite all stakeholders, schedule it like you would a business meeting, designate roles, create systems and set clear goals.
  • August: Review your estate plan and estate planning documents to make sure they are current. This includes wills, trusts, and advance directives. This is especially important if you have had a major life event such as a marriage, birth of a child or divorce.
  • September: Review your insurance policies to prep for November by making sure coverage still meets your needs and preparing to adjust accordingly. Consider whether you can make changes that will lower your premiums such as applying for a discount, replacing coverage or covering uninsured risks such as flood or earthquake insurance.
  • October: Review your financial first aid kit. Whether you are using an online service or the GET READY! Planner and binder system, make sure that everything is up to date and organized.
  • November: Open enrollment for group employee benefits and Individual Health Insurance begins. This is the one time of year where you can make changes to your group insurance benefits and flexible spending account contributions. Please note that some companies have different open enrollment periods and there are special enrollment periods for group employee benefits and individual health insurance including Medicare.
  • December: Wrap up any loose ends from your financial year. If you missed a monthly action step, this is a great time to complete it. Keep an eye on your holiday budget so you don’t take on any debt.

Once you’ve accomplished your main financial goal for the month, you can expand your financial calendar to remind you about other items that occur annually. Add your own items where you feel they work best. One-time events, such as a loan payoff date, should be entered in the financial calendar to stay on your radar. You may also want to add these items to any to-do planners or calendars that you currently use.

 And that’s it – your key to a sound financial future is simply to monitor and maintain your financial life, one step per month.

By Tony Steuer

 

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A Plan For Taking ONE Simple Step Each Month to Get Your Finances in Order