It’s a new year. Contrary to popular opinion, for the most part, when it comes to money, finances, banking and investing, it doesn’t really matter if the year is new or not. That being said, plenty of people take the opportunity of a fresh calendar to take a fresh look at things like personal finance and their financial plans. So, here is a checklist of things to start thinking about to make sure you personal finances are lined up for 2016.
2016 Personal Finance Checklist
Don’t get overwhelmed. Not all of this stuff needs to be done at once. Put a section on your calendar each week or two, and by the end of the first quarter, your finances will be reviewed, tuned-up, and ready for the year ahead.
- Review your checking account statements and make sure your bank isn’t charging you fees just for having a checking or savings account. If you are paying monthly fees, or minimum balance fees, find a new account. Check with your current bank first, you might just be signed up for the wrong account. Remember, at today’s interest rates, there is no way having a higher rate compensates for having to pay fees.
- Sign up for online banking, and make sure you have all of your online banking passwords current, and that you know how to log into your accounts. Nothing helps you keep track of your personal finances like being able to see what is happening whenever you want, even at 2:00 am, in your pajamas, while watching infomercials.
- Sign up for online bill pay. Most banks allow you to pay bills from your checking account. It’s easier to manage your array of bills from one spot instead of having to log into dozens of accounts to pay everything.
- Check your interest rate. After a decade of super-low rates, it’s unlikely you have a high interest rate, but if you have a variable rate, now might be a good time to look into getting a fixed rate before mortgage interest rates start rising.
- Check your payment information. Make sure you understand where your payment goes. Your escrow amount may have increased last year if your homeowners insurance rates went up, or if your property taxes increased.
- Verify that all of your coverages are in place. If you have more than a few hundred thousand dollars in non-retirement accounts, or in home equity, consider an umbrella liability policy. They are usually pretty cheap and can cover you for liability above what your car or home insurance policies have.
- Review your deductibles. Make sure your deductibles still make sense for your financial situation. If you have more savings, then consider higher deductibles.
- If you had kids since the last time you looked, check into making sure you have enough life insurance.
- If you remodeled your house, make sure you still have the right coverage.
- Check and see if you have flood insurance. It isn’t covered by your regular homeowners policy.
- Rebalance your portfolio if you don’t already have a schedule
- Contribute to an IRA by April 15, if you want the contribution to count for 2015 taxes.
- If you sold last year for tax-loss harvesting, check and see if you want to re-establish some investments. Be sure to avoid any investing mistakes with the wash sale rules.
Retirement Planning Checklist
- Check your 401k contributions. Increase them if you can. Even a 1% increase makes a big difference over the course of a career.
- If you are using target-date retirement funds, make sure the date still matches your plans.
- Check the expenses you are paying for investments, and investment management. If you find cheaper, compatible alternatives, switch.
- Take your retirement account balance and multiply it by 4%. That’s your current annual income if you retire today. Too low? Save more!
- If it’s been more than a few months, get one of your free annual credit reports and review you. File disputes for anything that isn’t legit.
- Use the same credit report to review what credit accounts you have open. If you see something you don’t recognize, reconnect to it. Make sure they have your current address and contact information. Don’t close old accounts. That can lower your score.
- Pay off a credit card, or make a big payment. If you can’t, start saving now so that you can soon.
- Check your credit score. Many credit cards offer free credit scores, or you can try a free credit score service like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame. The actual number isn’t important unless you are actually applying for credit, but keep an eye on the number throughout the year and make sure it is going up, not down.