Five Easy Steps to Recharge Your Money Life This Fall

istock_31153704_medium-600x338OK, so you’ve barely gotten the sand out from between your toes, and not only is Labor Day in your rearview mirror, but Halloween ads are starting to pop up with regularity.  Before you blink, Thanksgiving football and family gatherings will be over, and you’ll be headlong into the Christmas crush.

Along with the flying calendar pages comes the feeling that you’re running out of time to accomplish all those financial goals you’d so optimistically planned out last January.  But take heart. You can recharge your money life and accomplish those goals and put yourself on course for a super-productive fall.

A typical financial life is comprised of five main areas: cash flow, estate planning, tax planning, retirement/investments and risk management. In order to recharge your financial life, try accomplishing one item from each category.

For example:

  • Cash flow: Examine your monthly spending. What amount of your outflow is fixed (rent, mortgage, loans, etc.) versus discretionary (vacations, entertainment)? How much can you control, and how much is slipping through the cracks due to lack of care and oversight? Are you saving a targeted amount each month? If not, it’s time to create a savings goal.
  • Estate planning: If you don’t have a will and associated documents (Power of Attorney, Advanced Healthcare Directive), it’s time to get them prepared. If you do have these documents, take them out and read them over. If you haven’t reviewed them in the last three years, it’s time.
  • Tax planning: A lot of DIYers use online programs to prepare their taxes, but not many are taking the time to do a tax projection in advance of year-end. If you’ve never met with a CPA, having a projection and a review is a good investment to make sure you’re taking advantage of  the tax laws and are aware of any changes.
  • Retirement/investments: There are thousands of investment choices and certainly no lack of companies advertising “their brand” to woo you to their magic methods. It’s confusing at best. A prudent approach to investing is to have real targets in mind (i.e. how much will you need to achieve your goals), understand the time frame, have reasonable expectations for returns and create an allocation of assets that is sensible given your ability to withstand market volatility.
  • Risk management: Some people are insurance policy collectors, saying yes to agents who extoll the virtues of protecting your family. Many maintain auto and homeowner policies with microscopically low deductibles or unacceptably low coverage limits.  It’s time for an assessment that aligns your real risk with your current situation.

So, without further ado, here are your Top Five Strategies to empower, enrich and recharge your financial life this fall:

  1. Examine your cash flow and set a savings goal that will move you closer to your accumulation goals.
  2. If you have wills and associated documents, review them. Make sure they’re current and accessible. A Power of Attorney in a Safety Deposit box in the bank is not accessible. If you don’t have them, get a referral to an attorney who specializes in estate planning.
  3. Hire an independent CPA to do a tax projection before year-end and to review your last three years self-prepared returns to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
  4. Work with an financial advisor who adheres to the Fiduciary Standard (legally acts in your best interest first) to review your current allocation, risk tolerance, and current fees and expenses. Know the facts.
  5. You might love your insurance agent, but consider calling in someone fresh to provide another look. Don’t make any rash decisions, but do listen to another point of view.

These five actions (or you can substitute your own) will help you raise your awareness and confidence in your financial life and empower you to make decisions that are positive, powerful and productive.

Now, put away those beach chairs, store the sunscreen and make this autumn super-productive. You got this!

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