When we set our financial goals for the year, we always have the best intentions. However, as the year progresses, our busy lives can derail these plans. One way to stay on course is through a mid‐year financial checkup. With spring holidays over and tax season complete, now is the perfect time for a check‐up.
The best place to start is by reviewing the goals you set at the beginning of the year. It’s best to have short, medium, and long‐term financial goals. Your goals are subject to change. Maybe you have welcomed a new child or an older child has changed his/her college plans. Maybe your retirement date has changed due to circumstances at work or you want to change your investment portfolio. You may even want or need to add a new goal to your list, perhaps a dream vacation. This is a good time to put some thought into whether your goals remain the same or if you need to update them and adjust your financial plan.
Revaluate Your Budget
Once you have reevaluated your goals, the next step should be to look at your budget. A budget is a very important part of your financial plan. As mentioned above, many things can happen to derail your budget since you set it at the beginning of the year. That is why reviewing your budget regularly is so important. This allows you to discover issues and correct your course of action so you can stay in line with your goals.
Many credit cards or banks will offer categorical breakdowns of your spending, which can be a great way to find out what you’re spending the most money on and if there’s room to cut back. To get the best look at your spending habits, you may want to evaluate your savings and spending record over the past 6 to 12 months.
Has your emergency fund become depleted? Is your credit card bill higher than anticipated? A mid‐year budget check can help you find ways to pay down debt to rebuild that fund.
Changing your passwords is an inconvenient, but necessary, step toward better protecting yourself against fraud and identity theft and should be done regularly. Make sure you have strong, unique passwords for any online accounts that include personal financial information. Strong passwords typically have both uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols. To protect yourself further, enable two‐step verification on all your financial accounts. This security feature makes it much harder for anyone to access your accounts besides yourself.
Check Your Credit Score
Check your credit score: If you plan on moving, purchasing a car, or taking out a personal loan this year, you’ll want your credit score in good shape. Your score could have been impacted by recently accrued debt, late payments, hard credit inquiries, identity theft, and more.
Are you on track with your college savings goals? If you haven’t started saving yet, the sooner you get started, the better. You can fund a 529 plan with up to $16,000 per year and still qualify for the annual gift tax exclusion – but you can also fund five years at once if you’re behind and want to catch up. If you have a 529 plan set up, it’s a good idea to revisit your allocation as your child gets closer to college age, to make sure you’re not taking too much risk.
Revaluate Retirement Contributions
If you are still saving for retirement, look for ways to increase retirement plan contributions. Perhaps you recently got a raise. This could allow you to contribute a higher percentage of your salary to your employer sponsored retirement plan. A mid‐year review is a good opportunity to consider if and how much you can boost your retirement savings. And if you’re 50 or older, make sure you take advantage of catch‐up contributions of an additional $7,500 per year if you are able. If you are already maxing out your contributions, perhaps consider opening an IRA for additional retirement savings.
If you haven't already started getting organized, start collecting and keep your records and receipts. This can help you identify sources of income, track deductible expenses, and make preparing a complete and accurate tax return easier for next year.
It is important to reevaluate withholding periodically, especially if there have been recent law changes or a recent significant life event. If you are anticipating a shortfall, it gives you enough time to adjust or make estimated payment.
Some events that should trigger a review of your withholding are:
• Tax law changes
• Marriage, divorce, children
• Increase in salary
• New job, second job, starting a side business or unemployment
Additionally, you may want to adjust your withholdings based on your previous tax return. For example, instead of receiving a big refund during tax season, you could keep more of that money in your own pocket during the year by adjusting your withholdings appropriately.
Tax loss harvesting
This involves selling investments (within taxable accounts) at a loss, so those losses can be applied against capital gains that may be realized from the sale of other investments or that are paid out by mutual funds. Mid‐year is a good time to start having conversations with your tax advisor if the strategy may be appropriate for you.
Roth IRA conversions
Moving existing assets from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA may be a good strategy for your retirement goals. Having assets available in a Roth IRA that may qualify for tax‐free withdrawals can provide some flexibility in managing your tax liability in retirement. The amount you convert will be taxed as ordinary income, but if holding period requirements are met in a Roth IRA, withdrawals will be tax free. It is important to talk to your tax advisor who can help you understand your tax liability and learn the amount you can convert before moving into a higher tax bracket. If the strategy is right for you it may be beneficial to start the process mid‐year so you also develop a plan to deal with the tax impact of the Roth conversion.
If you haven’t yet created a plan for your charitable giving for 2023, now can be an excellent time to think about where you would like to see your contributions go to make a difference. Come up with a plan now, so you aren’t up against year‐end deadlines during the busy year‐end holiday season.
Setting up a donor‐advised fund allows you to contribute now, but you can postpone the decision on which charities you want to give to. A qualified charitable distribution from a tax‐deferred retirement account can allow you to donate and meet your required minimum distribution (RMD) for the year. The limit for 2023 is $100,000 which can be an advantage in keeping income at low enough levels to avoid the Medicare premium surcharge.
Review current asset allocation with your financial advisor
Does your current asset allocation suit your needs and risk tolerance? Review your investment portfolio with your financial advisor to make sure your asset allocation is still in line with your financial goals, time horizon, and tolerance for risk. Look at how your investments have performed against appropriate benchmarks, and in relationship to your expectations and needs. Discuss with your financial advisor to determine what, if any, changes need to be made.
Check the balance on your Flexible Spending Account (FSA). Individuals using a flexible spending account should consider their benefits and usage closely each year. While there are some provisions that may let you roll over some money into the next year, most FSAs are “use‐or‐lose.” Start thinking now about how you might use remaining funds in the second half of the year to ensure you don’t lose the money you contributed to your FSA account.
Also, by reviewing usage at mid‐year, it will help you make a determination for contributions for the following year. Events such as marriage/divorce and/or the birth of a child may allow you to change your contribution mid‐year. Speak with your human resources department or benefits manager to learn more.
This checkup may also be an opportunity to increase your Health Savings Account (HSA) contribution to reach yearly maximums, if possible. Have you recently turned 55? You can take advantage of the "catch‐up" contributions of an additional $1,000 per year for HSAs. The rules of HSAs allow these contributions to roll over and stay with you regardless of employment status, meaning there are no downsides to contributing beyond what one might use in a year.
What are the terms of your homeowners, renters, and auto insurance policies? How much disability or life insurance coverage do you have? Your insurance needs can change; so, make sure your coverage has kept pace with your income or family circumstances. Have you had changes in your life that would warrant additional insurance? If your family is growing, you might want to increase the amount of your life insurance to protect your loved ones. On the other hand, many people find as their net worth climbs and their children reach adulthood, they need less life insurance. If you haven’t gotten around to adding insurance or increasing existing policies to account for marriage, having children, starting a business, buying a house, or other life events you should discuss with a licensed insurance professional what coverage would be appropriate.
Review your Estate Plan
This is often the overlooked area of a financial plan. If you want to ensure there is a smooth transition of assets to family members, or you want your end‐of‐life health preferences to be executed in accordance with your wishes, then having an estate plan is essential. Estate planning includes documents such as a will, trusts, an advanced healthcare directive, and powers of attorney. It's important to review your documents regularly with your trust and estate attorney to make sure they still reflect your wishes. Also, remember to review beneficiary designations and make sure they are in line with your overall estate plan.
Once you have completed a financial plan it is important to revisit it regularly. A mid‐year financial checkup gives you a chance to reflect on the year so far with your taxes, investments, your life and your goals. It is a great way to review the progress you have made and make changes as needed to keep your financial life moving in the right direction.
For More on Personal Finance Topics
If you have more questions about other personal finance topics that matter to you, visit the Learning Center on TD Bank’s website. We hope you found this helpful. This article is based on information available in June 2023 and is subject to change.
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