By: Alyssa McNamara Reed, CFP®
CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM and Advisor at McNamara Financial Services, Inc.
It’s hard to find the time and energy to get complete control of your finances. I know very few people who spreadsheet their expenses or track them with a software program. I venture to guess that a very small percent of the population has a written financial plan in place and revisits it every couple of years. Most people don’t know how they are invested in their 401(k) or how much they are contributing. I feel that most people need a written financial plan, but I know how busy life can get and it’s one of those things that drifts to the bottom of your To Do List.
Until you make the time to get serious about planning, here is a To-Do List to get you on the way to financial health. This is generic in nature, and is not meant to replace any specific advice you may have received from a professional. This is also not all-inclusive. I originally had it much longer, but worried it would scare you into turning the page. Even if you complete just a few of these, you will likely be in better shape than you were before. The line before each task is for your checkmark. (I am no use if I don’t make things simple for people.)
- Track your expenses. There are many software programs and websites that do this. After a few months or a year, look at what you are spending and where. This is an eye opener!
- Find out when your mortgage will be paid off. Does this line up with your anticipated retirement?If no, ask the bank or mortgage professional how much more you would need to pay per month to have it gone at retirement.
- Find out how much you are putting into your 401(k) or other retirement plan. Is there room in your budget to put in more? If you are 50 or older, are you also adding the “catch-up” amount?
- Find out if your 401(k) has a Roth option. Then ask your Financial Advisor or accountant if this is more appropriate for you (or perhaps you do both to diversify?).
- Find out how much your company matches inside your 401(k), if anything. Make sure you arecontributing to take advantage of the full match.
- Find out how you are invested in your 401(k), meaning stocks vs. bonds. Ask your Advisor orthe representative managing the plan if this is appropriate for you. Do they have a risk tolerance questionnaire you could complete, which might guide you to a suitable portfolio?
- If you have kids not yet in college, decide how much of the expense (if any) you want to payfor. Then calculate or discuss with your Advisor how much you can pay for. These may be differentnumbers.
- When you have your “can” college number above, talk with your kid(s) about it. When they start getting serious about schools, they should be well aware of what they will be in for in the way of loans. And this may (should) help them decide which school is the best fit.
I hope you get at least 4 checkmarks. This will take a little work, but it is time well spent. Good luck!