At the beginning of a new year, I always start fresh. I’m going to eat healthy, workout, keep my life organized, and stick to some sort of a financial plan to reach my goals.
Like so many people, this start-of-the-year enthusiasm doesn’t really last. Before the snow has melted, I’ve let a few (or all) of these things slip. By the time spring is coming to an end, I need a full intervention to get myself on track so I can fully enjoy my summer.
One of the things that is always on that pre-summer intervention list is to do another financial check-in.
I always clean my financial house at the beginning of the year, and I check in monthly to make sure things are generally going in the right direction. But a more in-depth mid-year checkup helps me stay on top of things so I’m not asking, “where did it all go?” at the end of the year.
As the weather is warming up, diving into your bank account details may sound like the last thing you want to do. But these six steps will make it easier to head into summer knowing you’ve taken care of your money.
1. Get your full financial picture
It’s a good idea to check in on your complete financial picture at least a couple times per year. The easiest way to do this is by looking at your net worth: your assets (what you own) minus your debt (what you owe). This gives you a snapshot of how you’re doing financially and it helps you decide where to focus your efforts. For example, seeing all of your debt added together may make you decide to prioritize paying it off quickly.
This doesn’t need to be fancy. You could use a piece of paper and on one side you list out all of your bank accounts, retirement accounts, and other assets (like a house). On the other side, you’ll list out all of your debts: credit card, student loans, and other loans (like a mortgage). You’ll then subtract your debts from your assets.
Knowing the final number isn’t nearly as important as devising a plan to grow your net worth, so you own more money than you owe.
2. Readjust your goals
The great thing about goals is they give us direction. The tough thing about goals is that life changes, and if you’re not changing your goals right along with it, they become pretty useless. It’s a good idea to review your financial goals regularly. If you set goals for yourself back in January, do they still make sense? If you gave yourself the goal of saving for a home down payment earlier in the year, but you’ve decided to press pause on that, have you set another goal in its place?
Life doesn’t stick to plan. Just make sure you’re adjusting your goals so your money lines up with your priorities.
3. Check-in on your budget
Hopefully, you have a budget. Maybe you don’t track your spending meticulously, but you know how much you can spend and how much you aim to save. Take this moment mid-year to check in on that budget. Are there places where you’re overspending? Have you gotten into some less-than-desirable spending habits that you want to break? Look at your spending for the past few months and see how it compares to your budget. Then, make any adjustments needed.
4. Make a plan for summer spending
After a long winter, summer is social. There is always something to do, somewhere to go, and someone to meet. But all of this summer fun can leave your bank account, well, less fun. According to a Capital One survey, Americans spend an extra $300 socializing when the summer sun comes out.
But with a little planning, you can enjoy the summer months and not go broke in the process. What can you cut for the summer?
Do you have monthly subscriptions like Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix, or Audible? Consider pausing these for the summer while you’re spending time doing other things. You may even be able to pause your gym membership for a month or two and workout outdoors, taking advantage of sunny days.
Embrace trade-offs — if you know you’re going to be spending a little extra on things you don’t regularly do, find some places to cut back so it evens out. If you know you’ll be heading out to dinner with a friend after work, commit to packing your lunch for a couple of days to offset the cost.
Don’t let summer spending derail your money goals.
5. Check in on your retirement contributions
Putting money into a tax-advantaged retirement account is a use-it-or-lose-it benefit. There’s an annual maximum that you can contribute to different retirement accounts each year. If you don’t make a contribution one year, you can’t make up for it with additional contributions the next year. And since retirement accounts come with some great tax benefits, it’s pretty important to prioritize retirement account contributions.
In 2019, the max you can contribute is $19,000 to a 401(k) and $6,000 to an IRA, per Investopedia. How much did you plan to put aside for retirement this year? Are you on track or do you need to set aside a little more money to take advantage of your retirement account options?
6. Research your salary
Annual review season sneaks up quickly for many of us, but leading into this review period is the perfect time to start negotiating a raise. If earning more money was part of your financial plan this year, it’s better to start these conversations earlier, rather than later.
When deciding whether you should ask for a raise — and what you should ask for — the best first step is to begin researching your salary. Take some time during this mid-year check-in to benchmark your salary against competitive salaries in your field. With this data you’ll be able to know what you want to negotiate for and you’ll be prepared to start having this conversation early.