With the arrival of fall, it’s time to pull out my handy home maintenance checklist. My premade fall checklist helps ensure that I remember to complete not just the big items before winter arrives, but the small ones too.
The same can be said for your finances. It’s easy to remember the big, year-end items that need to be taken care of, such as taking a required minimum distribution; however, what about the smaller items and seemingly less important things? Those small tasks can really cause a mess. To help, here is a fall financial checklist:
Review your health care and other employer sponsored benefits:
The arrival of fall typically corresponds with open enrollment in many companies’ employee benefit programs. Understand all of the benefits your employer offers, and review if any of them are beneficial for your situation. The most pressing issues tend to be health care coverage, but also consider life and disability insurance coverage, as well.
Review your beneficiary designations:
One of the most overlooked but essential items that should be reviewed each year is checking if your beneficiary elections are accurate. Verify that your primary and contingent beneficiaries are designated as outlined in your estate plan.
Review your employer-sponsored retirement plan contributions:
By checking your year-to-date retirement plan contributions now, you still have sufficient time to make any adjustments in your contribution amount.
Review your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA):
Account holders of FSAs understand that any money remaining in the account will be lost by the end of the year. Given the challenge of getting a medical or dental appointment within 60 days, fall is an ideal time to focus on having any elective procedures completed.
If you have an HSA, fall is also a great time to review your contribution amount. Much like reviewing employer-sponsored retirement plan, you should evaluate if you can increase your contributions to the HSA.
Review your home and auto insurance policies:
You should review your home and auto policies every year when they are up for renewal. Many times though, understanding the renewal changes from one year to the next is difficult. Many people find it easier to just file the new policy and pay the premium; however, you should not just focus on your policy changes, but also consider what has changed with your personal situation, your house and your automobiles.
I like to set time aside in the fall to review my policy, because I am already in the mindset of getting ready for winter, and the process helps me focus on my home and cars. Some things to think about include any additions, alterations, or improvements to the house. One item I see frequently is people finishing their basement into a usable living space, but fail to adjust the policy to reflect this change. Most policies default to offer little coverage on items, such as sewer or drain backup. Also, review your auto loan policy; once the loan is repaid, the policy should be updated to remove the loss payee.
Review your budget:
Many people think of budgeting much like dieting – the painful process of depriving yourself of something you want, but do not necessarily need; however, budgeting does not have to be nearly as agonizing. Budgeting can simply be a tool to manage your finances—a way for you to see and understand where and how your money is being spent. That is why I like to review budgets in the fall. Enough of the year has gone by to determine a spending pattern, and there is still enough time left to make some adjustments.
This late-year check up is especially beneficial right before the holidays. I often ask clients these questions: are you on-pace to meet your savings goals, are there any areas that drastically differ than the target, and are there any cuts that need to be made?