Many of life’s biggest financial decisions are made proactively . . . while others are reactive. It just goes with the territory. Labor long enough in the everyday grind of working life and you’ll face the fact that some financial decisions are just going to be made “on the fly.” However, to help make sure this young year is headed in the right direction, I have listed a 12 month calendar to serve as a guide with financial decisions that normally come about in a year’s time. While I intended this article for January, the early days of February still provide ample time in 2012 towards attainment of your financial goals this year:
January — Budgeting and Goal Setting: Just as gyms and weight loss programs spend the bulk of their advertising in the beginning of the year for those with high hopes of losing weight, January is always the best time to sit down and plan your goals as well as review your budget. Hopefully for most, this means saving more and spending less in 2012.
February — Record Keeping: February is a great month for organizing home files and gathering together tax records in preparation for April 15th (its actually April 16th this year). Show me a system for good financial recordkeeping — and I’ll show you a well prepared individual with a solid financial future.
March — Understanding Taxes: Use this month to better learn about how income taxes affect your overall financial health and reinforce the idea that tax planning is a year-round activity.
April — Retirement Strategies: Since April represents the last opportunity to make IRA contributions for tax year 2011, what better time is there to review your retirement goals and determine if you are on track? For those planning to change jobs soon, relocate or retire, April is also a good month to learn about IRA rollovers, Learning what you need beforehand can be of great assistance when the time comes to make choices with your retirement plan distribution.
May — Insurance Review: Before heading into summer, when thoughts turn to play and vacations, remember to review your overall insurance coverage. The comfort of having adequate health care protection or financial security for a spouse and children in the event of premature death is true economic peace of mind. Sure, its natural not to want to think about these situations but the unexpected does happen and your preparedness for these potential contingencies is critical.
June — Family Plans: Events like Father’s Day, weddings and such provide good opportunities to think about changes to families and consider the financial implications of marriage, raising children and even the implications of divorce. It’s a good time to review beneficiary designations with insurance, retirement plans and other legal contracts to make sure that the process would be as smooth as possible for the beneficiary you wish to inherit your estate.
July — Life Planning: I’ve found there is no better time than on a vacation to step back and look at your life to see if you are headed in the right direction with your life as well as being satisfied with the personal goals you have set for yourself.
August — Career Planning: Heading into fall with a new year approaching is a great time to take stock of where you are with your job as well as making sure you are on track with plans for your career.
September — College Planning: There is plenty written about the need to prepare for college expenses. Needless to say, it will take a lot and involves a lot more than just tuition. I happen to know firsthand.
October — Investment Planning: While investment planning should be an all year endeavor, October represents a healthy time as the new year approaches to review one’s overall portfolio. It also presents a good opportunity to revisit your current plans as well as consider new strategies that become available.
November — Estate Planning: Holiday gatherings at Thanksgiving and later during Christmas provide needed reminders towards the importance of estate planning and providing a lasting legacy for the loved ones in your life. Plus the fact that gifts to children and grandchildren must be done before Dec. 31.
December — Charitable Planning: One of the great rewards of acquiring wealth is the ability to direct it towards causes and programs that make the world a better place. December represents a great time to consider both the psychological and tax benefits of such charitable intentions.
There you have it — 12 monthly financial planning themes to set your year in focus. Keep this in perspective however; Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nor will your economic picture be transformed in one short year. But it sure makes the days go by easier when you have a good calendar that keeps your financial life on track.
This month’s Parting Shot. Most in Washington, D.C. ,would have us believe that inflation is low today. One way inflation is being felt in the pocketbook, however, is not so easily identifiable. Go to your grocery store. You will find that the portion size of some products are now made smaller. It’s a way that grocery stores are able to disguise the price of products on their shelves. For example; cereal may cost the same but is packaged in a slightly smaller box. A package that used to hold five cuts of meat now only offers four. It illustrates how inflation is chipping away at our paychecks and reducing the value of how far those dollars can stretch.
Ike S. Trotter, CLU, ChFC, is a financial advisor in Greenville. Securities and investment advisory services provided through Woodbury Financial Services Inc., Member: FINRA, SIPC and Registered Investment Advisor, P.O. Box 64284, St. Paul, MN 55164. Tel: 800.800-2638. IKE TROTTER AGENCY, LLC, and Woodbury Financial Services are not affiliated entities. Information and opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Woodbury Financial Services Inc.
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