With the official start of summer almost upon us, it’s important to take time for a mid-year financial checkup that could yield rewards long after your vacation photos are buried deep in your Facebook feed.
Personal and financial events, such as getting married, sending a child off to college, or retiring, happen throughout the year and can have a big impact on your overall financial goals. If you wait until the end of the year or next spring to factor those in, it might be too late. Below are 6 items to review:
1. Check at least one of your credit reports
And do the others in the coming months. Everyone can obtain free credit reports through annualcreditreport.com. You're allowed one free report every 12 months from each of the three reporting bureaus - Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
The information in credit reports is used to tabulate your credit scores - numbers that lenders use to determine whether to extend loans and at what interest rates. You can test your knowledge by taking the 12-question quiz at www.creditscorequiz.org.
2. Manage your Social Security or pension benefit account
Even if you're too young to start collecting a pension or Social Security retirement benefits, there are reasons to pay attention. By opening a "My Social Security" account at ssa.gov, you can learn more about the program, estimate your benefits, and verify that your annual earnings have been accurately reported by employers.
When you investigate your pension benefit options, you will learn about what age you can start collecting without penalty, see if you will be affected by the windfall, and find out how much income you need to supplement the pension in retirement, so you can plan ahead.
3. Properly title and update your beneficiaries
In the United States, unclaimed payouts from policies such as life insurance are vast. In fact, life insurance companies hold at least $7.4 billion in unclaimed benefits that should go to beneficiaries. But many Americans are forgetting to keep their beneficiary details updated; as a result, large amounts of money go unpaid. Each stage of life brings changes, such as new family members and new marriages. As you grow older, updating your beneficiary listings is essential so you’re able to pay out the money you’ve invested to your loved ones.
4. Review your investment and retirement accounts
While it's anyone's guess whether the financial markets will be volatile or continue rising, it's certainly wise to review your accounts and make sure they match up with your overall goals and risk tolerance.
Are you planning to retire or have any birthday milestones in 2018 such as age 50, 59 ½ or turn 70 ½. If you’re planning to retire this year, the retirement accounts you tap first and how much you withdraw can have a major impact on your taxes as well as how long your savings will last. A midyear tax checkup is a good time to start thinking about a tax-smart retirement income plan.
If you’ll be age 70½ this year, don’t forget that you may need to start taking a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your tax-deferred retirement accounts, although there are some exceptions. You generally have until April 1 of next year to take your first RMD, but, after that, the annual distribution must happen by December 31 if you want to avoid a steep penalty.
5. Analyze rates and fees
Credit cards, checking accounts, and loans typically have various fees and interest rates applied to them. On the credit card side, interest rates have been rising and likely will continue that trend. Plus, cards come with various fees such as those for balance transfers, cash advances and expedited payments, along with annual fees and late-payment fees.
Consider reducing your overall debt. If you have mortgage and auto payments, look at your payment. Even today people who are still paying 6% or 6.5% on their mortgages should be paying lower rates. They should refinance, or, if they have significant cash and a low balance left on the loan, pay down their debt. You are not only reducing your debt, you will start getting a bigger return on cash flow for your retirement.
6. Find out what your projected 2018 taxable income is and plan ahead
Tax reform is here, and you want to make sure your taking advantage of the 2018 tax changes. You might want to assess whether you are subject to making estimated payments and check whether the amount you're having withheld from paychecks is sufficient. Click on our tax plan guide below:
Also, it's not too early to start thinking about managing taxable investment gains and losses. You may offset gains with losses and - to the extent you have excess losses - use them to shelter up to $3,000 in ordinary income per year. At IIS Financial in Portland and Augusta, Maine, we are here to help you through each step, so please let us know if you have any questions about these items or the bigger strategies guiding your financial goals and retirement.
*This newsletter is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information on the subjects covered. It is not, however, intended to provide specific legal, tax, or other professional advice. For specific professional assistance, the services of an appropriate professional should be sought.