Last month we focused on financial goal-setting in 2017. But financial stability doesn’t end with goal setting. Now comes the hard part: achieving your established goals.
A great first step in working to achieve your goals in 2017 is to assess your current financial situation. Time.com posted a series on financial fitness which provides some guidance in determining the shape of your finances. The following is a reprint of part 1 of their series: 10 Days to Total Financial Fitness
When you think about what kind of shape your finances are in nowadays, you may be feeling downright buff. Retirement plan balances are at record highs, home prices are back to pre-recession levels in most parts of the U.S., and the job market is the strongest it’s been since 2006.
No wonder Americans are more optimistic about their finances.
Given that, it’s understandable that some bad habits may be creeping back into your routine. Americans, overall, are slipping into a couple problems:
- Household debt is at a record high, fueled by an uptick in borrowing for cars and college and more credit card spending. Vanguard reports that investors are taking risks last seen in the pre-crash years of 1999 and 2007.
- What’s more, the financial regimen that’s been working well for you of late may not cut it anymore. In this slow-growth, low-interest-rate environment, both stock and bond returns are expected to be below average for several years to come.
To pump up your finances in 2017, you need to shake up your routine. The plan that follows can help you do just that.
See What Shape You’re In
Even if you’re a dedicated exerciser, you could be ignoring whole muscle groups, leaving yourself susceptible to injury. For example, 39% of people earning more than $75,000 a year wouldn’t be able to cover a $1,000 unexpected expense from savings, according to a 2014 Bankrate survey. So the first step is to establish your baseline by asking yourself these questions.
- How are my vital signs?
Tick off the basics: Check your credit, tally up your emergency fund (aim for six months of living expenses), look at how much you are contributing to your retirement plans, and get a handle on how you’re splitting up your savings between stocks and bonds.
Less than half of workers have tried to calculate how much money they’ll need for retirement, EBRI’s 2014 Retirement Confidence Survey found. Take five minutes to use an online tool that will show you if you’re on track, such as the T. Rowe Price Retirement Income Calculator.
- What’s my day-to-day routine?
The very first thing Rochester, N.Y., CPA David Young does with his clients is go over their spending. Budgeting apps like Mint.com and Personal Capital, he notes, “make the invisible credit card charges visible.” As important as the “how much” is the “on what,” says Fred Taylor, president of Northstar Investment Advisors in Denver. Divide your expenses into the essential costs of living, investments in your future (savings, education, a home), and the discretionary spending you have the flexibility to cut.
- Am I juicing my finances too much?
In other words, how toxic is your borrowing? Your total debt matters. But the kinds of debts you have and the implications for your future are crucial too, says Charles Farrell, author of Your Money Ratios and CEO of Northstar.
- What’s my biggest weak spot?
You need to guard against familiar risks, like insufficient insurance. But David Blanchett, head of retirement research for Morning-star, says you should also think about less obvious threats. Will new technology put your livelihood at risk? Are you counting on a pension from a financially shaky firm? Do you live in an area, such as Northern California, where home values hinge on the success of one industry?
Once you know how much progress you’ve made so far and what areas need the most work, you’re ready to get going on your financial fitness plan.
If you have any more questions about your financial situation, we would love to help. Contact Republic Wealth Advisors to schedule a meeting today.
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