Summer can be a laid-back season. Workflow often slows, there are barbeques and plenty of time to lounge at the pool (weather permitting, of course). This extra time to yourself or with your family can be enjoyable. But it’s also important to think about how you can use these hours to check some items off your to-do list. One of those items can be evaluating your finances.
A mid-year financial check-up can help you see how you’re tracking toward your goals and where you need to adjust.
Here are some key items to review:
1. Your budget.
Have you made one? If not, you should. We have some pointers on getting started. If you do have a budget, how well are you sticking to it? If you’re missing the mark each month, take a look at what you could be doing differently. Have you made a budget but aren’t tracking your progress? Explore the variety of apps or other systems that can help you track where your money is going and if your spending aligns with your budget.
2. Your emergency fund.
As you know, expenses can come out of nowhere. Your car needs a repair, your basement floods, or you have an unexpected medical situation. Are you contributing a set amount each month to a rainy-day fund that can cover these costs? An extra stash of cash to cover these bills can help keep you from going into debt. One way to start an emergency fund is to make it automatic. Set up your accounts so that a fixed amount goes from your checking account into your savings account each month. Some employers may offer the direct deposit option to put some of your paycheck into checking and some into savings.
3. Your retirement savings.
Are you contributing enough to your employer-sponsored 401(k) plan to get your employer’s full match? If not, increase what you put into your 401(k) plan each paycheck so you’re not leaving money on the table. Similarly, do you have retirement savings accounts outside of your 401(k) plan? An IRA can go a long way in helping you cover costs during retirement. Even small contributions each month add up over time and can help you pay your bills down the road.
4. Your portfolio allocations.
It’s important to keep an eye on where your money is invested to make sure that it’s working its hardest and smartest for you. Does it seem better to have more of your assets in bonds? Or would it make more sense to invest in international stocks? It depends on several factors, including your timeline, appetite for risk, and what’s going on around the world. Make sure your portfolio is well-diversified and has a risk level that aligns with your goals.
During the summer, enjoy a slower pace of life, but try to use the extra time to check on your finances. If you do a little more work now, you could find yourself in a better position to meet your goals later down the road.