Colder weather may have you reaching for cozy pajamas, socks, and even an ugly sweater or two.
Along with festive music, fresh snowfall, and the smell of gingerbread lattes, it’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement of the holidays. But, before you get wrapped up in gift-giving and other seasonal pursuits, settle into your favorite chair and perform an end-of-year review of your finances.
Update insurance policies
Insurance coverage can protect your finances all year long. But insurance needs change over time. Did you get married or divorced, add new family members, or lose income this year? You might need to name a new beneficiary, increase or decrease coverage amounts, or drop a policy. It’s a good practice to conduct a review with your agent.
Revisit your budget
If your income or expenses changed this year, but your budget stayed the same, it’s time to take a closer look. An increase in income makes it easier to forget about your budget since you’re not overdrawing your bank account. But unless you follow a budget, reaching your long-term financial goals — such as retiring by age 60 — can become nearly impossible. If you’re new to budgeting, find a method that works for you. One popular option is the 50/20/30 budgeting method.
Review your credit history reports
Failing to check your credit history reports regularly can lead to poor credit health. Incorrect information on your reports can lower your credit score even if you pay your bills on time and keep a low credit balance.
Order a free copy of your credit report from each of the main credit reporting bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com. Look for accounts you don’t recognize and errors your creditors may have made. If you find incorrect information, follow each bureau’s dispute procedures to correct the error.
Cancel or pause unused services or memberships
If you subscribe to services or pay for memberships you haven’t used in three months, consider if they are still a good fit. Some companies will allow you to temporarily suspend payments due to financial hardship. Even if your financial situation is stable, ask yourself if continuing to pay the fee is worth it. Gaming subscription services and streaming services are examples of potential money leaks.
Check your progress toward your financial goals
Are you still on track to reaching your earnings or savings goals? If not, what can you do to improve the situation? You may be able to make more money with a side job or reduce some expenses and redirect those savings toward your goals. Figure out where you are on the path to meeting your goals before deciding your next steps.
Review your investment accounts
Regular deposits into an investment account can give your savings a better chance of growing at a faster rate. But there’s more you can do. Review your investment accounts to make sure they still meet your financial needs. Schedule a time with your advisor to discuss any changes to your goals and strategy.
Prepare for tax day
April 15 is months away, but that doesn’t mean you should wait until the new year to start thinking about your taxes. Start gathering receipts for non-reimbursed work-from-home expenses, charitable donations, and medical bills. If you were unemployed this year, find out what unemployment benefits documentation you should expect in the new year. Ask a tax advisor if you’re unsure which documents you need to collect for your tax return.
Give yourself an early holiday gift of financial peace of mind. Review your finances now to enjoy the benefits all year long.