Summer is here. Below is a sort of financial checklist to use. The list is not all inclusive nor is it centered on any particular theme other than good financial practices. These are things that involve good common sense, but oftentimes we find that persons can get lazy or complacent and do not do what they know they should. With that said, take note!
Remember your will.
Have you updated your will? I confess that I am just in the process of updating my own. Connie and I had our first will drawn in Wichita in the mid-1980s. We forgot about it until 2005 when we went to see an Iowa City attorney. In a very nice way, he informed us that change was long overdue. This column has prompted me to call the attorney and schedule another revision to our will as much has changed in the past ten years. Do not wait until an unforeseen circumstance prompts an emergency visit to your attorney. Be proactive and schedule something now.
Plan for your retirement.
How about your 401K? Is it invested according to your tolerance for risk at your age? If you are not a savvy investor, many companies’ plans will pick the eligible investments inside a 401k in accordance with the employee’s risk tolerance. All other things being equal, the younger you are, the more risk you should be taking in retirement planning.
And while we are on the subject of retirement planning, it was disheartening recently to see that a surprising number of Americans have not taken this subject seriously and have inadequate funds to retire in a manner that will allow them to live comfortably. What to do? As my late father would have said, “straighten up, Sparky!” There is no time like the present to start. If you are deferring 3 percent of your salary, save 5 percent. If you are at 5 percent, go to 7 percent. If you are not deferring anything, start deferring now. If your employer has a 401K match, at a minimum, defer at least as much as is necessary to get the match. That’s as close as you will ever come to “free money.”
Let technology help you.
Take advantage of the technology your bank offers. If you are reading this, you are at least somewhat literate when it comes to a computer. Almost all banks today make it very easy to retrieve information on any type of account. Whether on your desktop, laptop, tablet or phone, you can get the information you need. And by using this technology, you will also save precious time for other more pleasant pursuits. One small example: if you are not getting your bank statements electronically, start now. It saves time, money and as a bonus, is environmentally friendly.
Keep your bank informed.
I’ve written about this before, but if you are going on vacation to a different part of the country (or overseas), give your banker a heads up before you go. It’s not convenient when you need to pay for a purchase and your debit or credit card is rejected. This is not an uncommon occurrence as card providers are very attuned to preventing fraudulent activity. If you tell your banker where you will be travelling, you should not have a problem with card acceptance.
Manage your debt load.
Too many Americans are still caught in a spiral of borrowing that makes it very difficult to get ahead financially. Find a good financial counselor to help you manage your debt load (or perhaps reduce it). There are dozens of bankers around the country who can provide financial advice that is priceless. But you have to ask …
Find your “go-to” person.
Finally, do you know someone at your bank who you can call when you need advice, when you need a problem fixed, or when you have a complaint? If you don’t, you are banking in the wrong place! I have said many times over the years that it is inevitable that we will make a mistake with a customer. After all, we are human! One of the most important things we do is to fix problems and do it in a way that leaves our customer feeling positive about our bank. If you do not have a “go-to” person at your primary bank, get one. If you do not feel confident about your “go-to” person, allow me to recommend one of my associates at MidWestOne. Remember: you will not appreciate your go to person until you need them. At that point in time, that person will be worth his/her weight in gold!
So there you have it. It’s simple stuff. But it’s all important and necessary as we navigate our own financial obstacle course.