Welcome to our third edition of the Personal Financial Checklist. Each month we will bring you a checklist of financial to-dos to help keep you on track to achieve financial freedom. Be sure to download and print the checklist for your personal use! (Click here for past checklists.)
Review Your S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Check in on your progress. Are you ahead on your goals, or are some of them falling behind? What do you need to do differently to make yourself successful?
Adjust Your Budget Based on January & February Spending
The #1 reason budgets fail is because people don’t adjust them every month. There’s no such thing as a normal financial month. Each one is different and your budget should be adjusted accordingly, instead of being thrown under the bed until next January.
In January, you spent some time creating a budget for what you planned on spending in each category. How did that work? Did you adjust categories in February? Do you need to make some tweaks to the plan to stay on track?
Now is the time to adjust those budget categories to better reflect your spending and make sure you are still spending less than your are making. A budget shouldn’t be static. It should adjust as you need it to so that your short term spending and long term spending is tracked.
Check-in On Your Tax Progress
If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, now is the time. Don’t wait until the last minute! If you have already filed your taxes, have you received your refund? Did you send in any payments to the federal, state, or local (city) governments that needed to be sent? The IRS doesn’t mess around when it comes to deadlines, so avoid the fines and interest charges and get all your tax requirements done before the end of March!
Ensure All Important Documents Are Stored Safely
I got into a friends car once and sitting on the backseat next to me were two folders. I realized they were the life insurance policies I had delivered to him and his wife over a month ago. This is not what I would call “stored safely”.
The best way to store important documents is in a fireproof safe. You can find one at most local retailers, or on Amazon. I have found it is also beneficial to have these documents stored in digital format. Scanning documents onto your computer is just one more step to insure you have what you need when you need it. I would even recommend putting them on a cloud based storage service, such as Dropbox or Google Drive or easier access in case of computer failure. (Note: I only recommend cloud storage if you have a very secure password for your account. Documents like that being stored online are always at risk of being hacked, but with a strong password, and a trusted company like Dropbox, your risk is reduced dramatically.)
As far as what is classified as an “important document”, I would refer you to this article about for managing household records. It not only tells you what documents to keep, but how long you should keep them for too.
Review Long Term Savings Goals & Make Necessary Changes
Back in January, we talked about automating your savings plan. Now it’s time to take our long term savings planning a step further. Most people will start saving for retirement, but never really look at the big picture. Knowing how much they will need to retire at the age they want are critical when planning for retirement. Here at FSMAgency, we believe there are four big questions that need to be answered when planning for retirement (blog post here). If you don’t know they answer to these four questions, then your goals might not be accurate to what you will need.
Prepare a Summer Budget
Summer is fast approaching, although it may not look or feel like it. Before we know it, we will be packing for vacation, opening the pool, or sending the kids off to summer camp. All of those things will cost us a little extra in the summer months. Today is a good day to plan for those one time summer expenses.
Grab your calendar for June, July, and August and mark the special events that are taking place in those months. Will any of those events cost you extra money outside your normal monthly budget? Will having the kids home from school put an extra strain on the grocery or gas spending for non school months? Are you planning a vacation, or some weekend trips to the amusement park or zoo? Prepare now for any or all of these upcoming expenses and feel financially ready for the summer when it gets here!