As 2023 kicks into gear, now’s the perfect time to refresh your finances, particularly in light of recession and inflation fears that continue to plague us. Hence, we’ve put together this top-of-year financial checklist. Now, admittedly this isn’t an activity that most of us look forward to, but rest assured that completing this checklist will ultimately leave you in a better frame of mind and quite likely a better financial position. Of course, all of our economic situations are unique, so some of these items may be more important than others, and most importantly, it’s best to speak to a trusted financial advisor or money coach about how to ensure you’re well-situated financially. So, without further ado, let’s start this year’s financial planning!
1. Your Budget: Time to Review & Revise
Life is expensive, and given recent inflation trends, it’s only getting more so. To know exactly how much you’re spending (as frightening as that might sound for some), preparing a budget is vital. But it doesn’t end there. It’s also important to track how your actual spending will compare to whatever you’ve budgeted, and when necessary, make adjustments. The start of the year can be a great time to evaluate and determine your desired spending habits, and you can use this guide to various budgeting methods to help you complete the process.
2. Debt: Reviewing Progress & Setting New Goals
If you’re sitting on a lot of debt — credit card debt, in particular — you’re not alone. Year-over-year, credit card balances are up fifteen percent to $930 billion. There is also mortgage debt, personal loans, student loans and auto loans to name a few. Itemize all of them, along with their respective interest rates and minimum monthly payment amounts. You may be able to consolidate some of your debts, though interest rates are on the rise so be sure to examine the terms closely and always read the fine print.
3. Savings: Reviewing Progress & Setting New Goals
The reality is that with so many Americans living paycheck to paycheck , having savings can be a luxury. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that every little bit counts (especially, thanks to the miracle of compounding interest), and having enough savings on hand can help keep surprise expenses from derailing your financial goals. Any financial adviser will tell you, it’s a good idea to have at least six months of living expenses set aside, just in case, but beyond emergency funds, the impact of long term savings can be pretty profound. As a compound interest calculator will show you, if you were to put away $100 a month starting at age 25, at 6% interest, you’d have nearly $185K in the bank by your 65th birthday. And just doubling that contribution would net you over $370K.
It’s a good idea to start collecting and reviewing your statements as tax season approaches, particularly if you experienced any big life changes this year such as marriage, divorce, children, etc. Though taxes aren’t due until April 15, getting an early start on reviewing your documents will give you time to find and address any issues or discrepancies well before the tax deadline. You can do this with your tax advisor or on your own with the help of this tax preparation guide. Furthermore, remember to adjust your tax withholdings according to your changing financial priorities and life events for 2023, and submit an updated W-4 to your employer.
5. Insurance Policies
There are so many different types of insurance these days — health insurance, homeowners insurance, renters insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, auto insurance and many, many more. It’s easy to simply forget about them and just pay the premiums, but you’d be wise to take a look at each and make sure you’ve got the right coverage for the year, particularly if you’ve made any meaningful changes that should be accounted for in the policy — such as changes to your home or expensive items that should be reflected in your homeowners policy, for example.
6. Credit Score & Credit Reports
Americans typically each have three credit reports from three different credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Transunion), which document our credit account balances, whether we pay bills on time or miss payments entirely. These reports are used to calculate our credit scores, which in turn are used by financial institutions when determining whether we will qualify for loans and what our interest rates will be. Generally we’re allowed a copy of each of those reports once a year, however the bureaus have allowed consumers to freely pull their reports once a week through December of 2023. It’s important to review the documents at least once a year to ensure that the information on them is accurate, and doing so at the top of the year can give you a clear view of where you stand and how to structure your financial goals for the year. If you do find mistakes, you can dispute credit report errors directly with the credit bureaus. Remember, though these reports may look similar, they don’t all necessarily contain the same information, so be sure to review each one carefully.
7. Your Financial Plan
Last but not least, it’s important to review your long term financial plan at least once a year, and if you don’t have one, there’s no time like the present to get started. A financial planner can help you put this together and it will encompass most if not all of the items we’ve already covered on this checklist. Financial plans help you prepare for life’s big financial moments — both good and bad. We’re talking about student loans, weddings, buying a house, losing a job, writing a will and choosing beneficiaries, and, of course, retirement. All of these goals and challenges can seem insurmountable when we think about them, which is why it’s important to get them out of your head and down on paper. We’ve put together this guide to creating a financial plan to help you get started.
Staying on top of your budget can be stressful, especially when costs keep increasing. However, there are several money moves you can make to ensure you keep up with your bills and stay on track with your retirement savings. In fact, the top of the year is the perfect time to take stock of your financial situation and reevaluate your budgets and money goals.
If you need a tighter grip on your funds, opening a SoFi Checking and Savings account could be part of your end-of-year financial checklist. Automatic savings features and zero account fees make money management a breeze. Plus, SoFi members get access to free one-on-one career services to help with career transitions.
This article originally appeared on SoFi and was syndicated with permission.
Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life.