The summer season is winding down and fall is fast approaching. And whether you’re excited for the cooler months ahead or still holding on to the last bits of summer, mid-year is officially here. Now is a great time to slow down and take stock of your entire financial picture and how it’s lining up with your year-end goals. Below are a few ways in which you can check-in with your financial health as summer comes to a close.
Check-In #1: Evaluate Current Debt
Holiday retail sales hit a staggering $719 billion last year, meaning our spending won’t be slowing down anytime soon as we head into the holiday season.1 In fact, people expect to spend around $800 on Christmas presents alone - that doesn’t include holiday parties, decorations, travel, etc.2 With your spending likely to increase towards the end of the year, now is a great time to evaluate any current debt you may have accumulated throughout the year.
You may want to write down all debt currently owed including credit cards, student loans, mortgages and car payments. Be sure to also keep track of the minimum payment amounts and due dates. Once you have everything laid out and organized in one place, you can begin focusing on how to minimize or eliminate certain debts. For example, if you’ve been making regular payments to your credit card company, you could try negotiating a lower interest rate or look into transferring the debt to another company. Seeing all your debt in one place may sound stressful, but it’s an important first step in taking control and minimizing what you can.
Check-In #2: Check Your Credit Score
Can you remember the last time you checked your credit score? It’s possible (and likely) that your credit score is really only thought about when it’s time to apply for a new credit card, take out a loan or make any other large purchases. If you haven’t given it a good look in a while, now’s the time. Your credit scores can give you a decent overview of how your financial health is doing. In addition, it can help make you aware of any potential red flags such as missed payments or unauthorized use of your credit cards and identity theft.
Check-In #3: Readjust Your Retirement Fund
If you contribute to an employer-sponsored retirement fund such as a 401(k) or 403(b), take some time to check in with your account. This is especially important if you set automatic deposits a year or two ago and haven’t thought about it since. In fact, it is especially important to revisit your retirement fund in 2019 because the IRS raised the maximum contribution limit from $18,500 to $19,000 a year for those under 50.3 If you’re heading towards retirement and trying to make the most out of your employer-sponsored plan, you now have the opportunity to save even more in your account.
Check-In #4: Refill Your Savings
With family vacations, weekend trips and summer concerts, enjoying the warmer weather can cost quite a bit. The temptation to tap into your savings is strong, and if you did - you’re not alone. But as we gear up for the holidays, now’s the perfect time to work on filling it right back up. And if you set a savings goal for the year, do a quick progress report. Have you nearly reached your goal? Then you may want to challenge yourself to save even more. And if you’re nowhere near it, focus on adjusting your spending habits to better support your savings goal.
Check-In #5: Rethink Your Goals
Think back on everything that’s happened this year. It’s likely some unexpected events occurred, isn’t it? From unfortunate events like divorce, death or property damage to exciting celebrations like proposals or births, moments large and small can have a significant impact on your financial standings and goals. Revisit the goals you made at the beginning of the year and make sure they are still well-aligned with your current standings. If not, take some time to look at your entire financial picture and future needs, and create new goals that better reflect them.
With a bit of time to prepare, you can enter the second half of the year feeling financially confident and on track to meet your goals. As vacations wind down and school starts back up, find some time to yourself to readjust, reevaluate and rethink as needed to stay on track for the rest of the year.