USAA Tips: Steps for an annual financial check-up

Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Chad Storlie

An annual financial checkup done is always a good idea. Financial advisors definitely have their place in helping us reach our financial goals, but there’s a lot you can do yourself so you know and understand your financial position.

The purpose of the annual financial review is to help you reach your financial goals: Do you want to retire early? Do you want to pay down debt? Do you want a new car? A self-administered financial checkup can help answer these questions.

Discuss Goals With Your Spouse/Partner.

Before diving into the numbers, sit and discuss the non-numeric issues. Each of you should discuss your financial goals for the next one to three years. What are your new joint financial goals? With financial issues, it is so easy to start getting into the numbers, becoming analytical, and discussing action steps. However, unless you and your partner are aligned on the financial issues and the priority of your financial goals, the next steps in the financial discussion will not be the ones that you specifically need. Remember, talk before you calculate.

Update The Important Information.

Next, get the most recent updated copies of all your investments, mortgage payoff, loan payoffs, health care insurance, credit card statements, and life insurance. While you are gathering these records, check and update all of your family information with the correct address, phone numbers, email and beneficiary arrangements, and ensure that your spouse or partner can speak on your behalf to the financial provider. This is also a good time to ensure that you can locate wills, Powers of Attorney, and other legal documents. Finally, put everything in one place and place an electronic backup on a secure device in another location.

Update Your Budget and Amounts.

Budgets take a lot of time to create, but once they are done, they are invaluable guides to ensure you meet your financial goals. First, update all your budget categories to ensure that your spending areas have not changed. Second, update the amounts for each category of spending that you are actually spending. Third, update all of your income sources with the correct amounts. Fourth, do a check to see if you can eliminate and reduce categories and the spending so that you can save more. This is the tradeoff step. If gymnastic lessons are important, do the gymnastics lessons and go out to dinner less. Credit card spending and any negative spending trends need to be addressed here. The point of a budget is to ensure that you can save and invest enough to achieve your goals while meeting your basic expenses.

Can You Find Other Financial Benefits.

Look for areas where you can get discounts, ask for reduced payments because of long service to a provider, and ensure you are effectively using all the financial benefits from your employers. Make sure you are contributing enough to get the maximum of your employer match for 401K investments, using pre-tax spending accounts for daycare, and the like. Any steps that you can take to ensure that you are maximizing all of your financial benefits and discounts are never wasted.

Assess Your Retirement Investments.

When you gather your current retirement account statements, make sure that you get copies and an analysis of your employers’ retirement benefits, your Social Security estimate, and any health care insurance following retirement. Conduct an analysis of your investments and pay close attention to the fees and expenses you are being charged. High fees with low comparative returns are never a good sign.

Generate Extra Income.

Often times, generating more income towards your financial goals is frequently overlooked during financial checkups. Can you start a part time job? Are there promotions at work that you can apply for? Do you have another skill that can generate an income? Additional income is an incredible point of personal financial leverage because, if your expenses are in order, nearly all of your additional income can go to meet your financial goals.

If Needed, Call In The Experts On Specific Topics.

When you understand your goals, spending, and have a complete budget, then the next step may be a personal financial expert. Want to apply for a new mortgage, want to try some different investment techniques, or need more life insurance? These are all areas of tremendous financial breadth where an expert would be of invaluable assistance.