Football season is upon us, and whether you’re partial to college ball, the NFL, or are just plain addicted to anything resembling a pigskin, you can expect a lot of couch time. But you don’t have to ignore your finances just because the running backs are slashing, linebackers are taking down opposing quarterbacks and the beer and nachos are plentiful. You can take time between cheering, dipping, or complaining about a blown call to improve your financial life. Think it can’t be done? Well, here are six ways to take care of your finances during the course of a single football game.
You have a good ten to fifteen minutes between the pregame show and kickoff. Use that time to log in to your 401(k) or IRA account and check the following:
- Beneficiary designations. If you have minor children, DO NOT name them as beneficiaries. If you’ve had a change in marital status, make sure it’s properly indicated. Remember, you cannot disinherit a spouse without them signing off.
- If you have a rebalance option, make sure it’s selected for at least once or twice a year. Examine your current allocation and make sure it reflects your ability to withstand market volatility. Holding stocks in your retirement plan is a way of unlocking market returns, provided you’re properly diversified and you have sufficient time to allow the market to provide something akin to historic rates.
OK, that was pretty easy. It’s now the first quarter. The game is moving kind of slowly, and the commercials are coming fast and furious. Here’s another quickie you can accomplish during commercials and those interminable reviews and replays:
- Assemble and review your debt. This means your credit cards, auto loans, school loans and mortgage. Create a spreadsheet or list of all your debt, interest rates, monthly due dates and monthly payments.
Great, you’re moving forward. You’ve assessed an important part of your financial life. At the next time-out, examine whether you’re paying more interest than is reasonable or are carrying more debt than is comfortable. Maybe it’s time to refinance your mortgage or pay off a lingering credit card balance. Getting a handle on your debt situation is really important, but it tends to get lost in our thinking. If you have little or no debt, well then, help yourself to some nachos and guacamole!
As the first quarter comes to a close you have a bit of time before the action resumes. Grab your check register or online account and begin to review some possible deductible expenses to get ready for year-end.
- Make a list of your charitable donations and have the receipts together. Especially those non-cash donations. If you made a sizeable donation of property, you might need an appraisal. So rather than scurrying around at tax time, you can gain a foothold on tax planning right now. If you get that together pretty quickly, you might want to also assess any capital gains or losses realized during the year to date. This information is really important in any year-end tax loss harvesting necessary or possible.
The game is moving along at a pretty good clip, and it’s halftime before you know it. You can definitely make some strides now before the action resumes.
- Grab your insurance folder and create a list by type of each policy (life, property and casualty, health, etc.), anniversary date, premium cost, benefit limits and deductibles. If you have low-deductible plans, schedule a call or email your agent to provide quotes for higher deductibles. In the life insurance category, review beneficiary designations and the amount of your coverage. Consider whether you need more (relative to your debt, needs of your heirs, your charitable wishes) or if your needs are less. In the case of property and casualty (home, auto, umbrella), make sure the coverage limits match your needs. If your coverage for your home is less than your home value (minus the value of the land) you might need to up your coverage. If you’ve put in an alarm system or put in a pool, you need to make sure your policy reflects those changes.
As you get cozy into the third quarter, you can reflect on the important steps you’ve made in a short amount of time. Sit back and enjoy the third—there’s one more break before the fourth quarter begins. Use the commercials and time-outs to finish any of the previous items described above.
Okay, it’s. Time for your last task during today’s game. We’re going back to taxes:
- Grab last year’s return and start matching up your current year to date income with the prior year. Are you ahead of last year? If so, you want to make sure you’re not encroaching into a higher marginal bracket without it being accounted for in your withholding or available deductions. Think back over the year. Did you have a casualty loss, sell a home, gain or lose a dependent? What changes have occurred that might impact your tax bill this year?. It isn’t too early to start looking at this—because on January 1 it’s too late. Perhaps you can increase your 401(k), take advantage of the catch-up provisions or make sure you’ll use your flex plan benefits before year-end.
There! You did all that financial housekeeping in the space of a weekly football game. Of course, you don’t have to do all this during a game, especially if it’s a really important one. The point is, you can use small amounts of time to review your financial issues and improve your financial life. Go get ’em!