With everything else going on in life, it’s easy to put off reviewing your finances. But it’s an important step in keeping your financial house in order for the future.
So as we continue to spend an unprecedented amount of time indoors wondering how to spend our free time, now may be the perfect opportunity plan a financial date night to review your personal finances. To get started, make a list of the things you’d like to review about your finances, then plan some quiet time over dinner or on a walk to discuss them. Here are several financial areas to consider:
Beneficiaries for products such as IRAs and life insurance are not covered by a will. You have to name them on the designation form for each product. And it’s a good idea to review these beneficiaries once a year. Did you get married recently and need to add your spouse? Did you have kids in the last year? Would you rather support a charity with a portion of the money? Lean more about how to choose a beneficiary.
2. Life insurance
Life insurance protects the living and ensures that your family can survive, and thrive financially, if one of the main providers dies. Life insurance proceeds can be used to pay for housing, school tuition, outstanding debt, household expenses, taxes, funeral costs, and child care.
Even if you already have coverage through your employer, you should consider additional outside coverage. The amount offered may not be enough to cover your family’s needs, and it typically won’t move with you if you change companies. In addition, it’s helpful to analyze your life insurance needs each year, because circumstances can change. Perhaps you’ve moved into a more expensive home or a city with a higher cost of living. Maybe the kids are now in private school. Your income might have increased. All of these affect your family’s financial needs. Talk to your insurance agent about what you should have in life insurance, or check a financial life insurance calculator online. You may be surprised to learn how affordable it can be to get the protection you and your family need.
3. Disability insurance
According to the Social Security Administration, slightly more than 25 percent of Americans who are 20 years old will be disabled before they’re 67. Disability insurance provides a portion of your salary if you become unable to work due to illness or an accident. Without disability insurance, could you cover your living expenses if you couldn’t work? Check to see if you have disability insurance through your employer. Find out how much it covers and whether you should supplement it.
The yearly check-in should include a look at your outstanding debts. It’s helpful to know how much you owe, whether it’s student loans, mortgage, car loans, credit cards, or anything else. How much of your debt are you paying off each year, and is there a way to pay off the loans with the highest interest rates first? Or perhaps you can adjust your budget to cut back on spending, applying that savings to pay off your debt.
Mortgage rates are at an all-time low. Compare your current interest rate to the latest refinancing rates. You might be able to save money by refinancing to a different, lower-priced mortgage.
A yearly review of your investments, especially now, will help you understand how they’re performing and whether you need to rebalance them. Make a spreadsheet noting your retirement account balances, investment accounts, and available cash. Are your investments diversified? Do you have a good mix of stocks, bonds and cash, depending on your age? Make a plan with your partner about what you need to change in your investment mix in the next year. Your financial advisor can offer additional guidance in this area.
7. Credit report and credit score
Every year, it’s a good idea to look over your credit report and make sure it’s accurate. You can get a free credit report from all three major reporting agencies from AnnualCreditReport.com. It’s helpful to look at your credit score, especially if you’re planning to make a big purchase requiring a loan. This gives you time to make adjustments to improve your credit score.
If you have a partner, going over the finances each year with them can be a bonding experience. By making it a date night, you get to enjoy each other’s company, too. Preparing all the paperwork ahead of time will ensure that it will be a productive date night that can offer a better understanding of your joint finances and what you can do together to improve your financial future.