MONEY MANAGEMENTFrom the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants - Presented by Dean Knepper, CPA, CFP®
GIVE YOURSELF A MID-YEAR FINANCIAL CHECKUP
(June 1, 2007) -- If you’re one of the many people who set goals and made financial resolutions for 2007, it’s time for a reality check. With half of the year gone, where do you stand? According to the Virginia Society of CPAs, a mid-year financial review will provide you with the insight you need. Here’s what to consider.
Get a grip on your goals
Whether you’re saving for a down payment on a house, a new car, or a college education, it’s important to monitor your progress. If your goals aren’t specific, you’ll find it’s difficult to judge how you’re doing. If you set a vague goal like resolving to “save more in the New Year,” put a more definitive plan in place now, for example, to save $250 a month in a 529 College Savings Plan. To improve your chances of meeting your goal, set up automatic transfers from your paycheck or checking account to a savings or investment account.
Tally your taxes
Did you get a big refund or owe a big chunk of money this past April? Now is a good time to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen next year. Project your taxes for 2007 and make a mid-year correction by changing how much is withheld from your paycheck. To reduce the size of your refund, increase the number of allowances you claim on your W4 Form. Reverse the strategy if you owed a large sum to the IRS. Self-employed workers can adjust the amount they pay in estimated taxes to meet their projected tax bill.
Battle your budget
If you followed through on your resolution to better track where your money goes, take a look at your spending over the last six months to see where you should make adjustments. Check your household budget as well to determine whether you need to revise your categories or adjust your numbers.
Revisit your retirement savings plan
Many 401(k) retirement plans give employees the option to change their deferral election at mid-year. If you’re not contributing the maximum — or at least enough to get the full company match — take a look at your budget and see whether you can increase your contribution. For example, if you recently received a raise or expect one soon, that money can be used to increase your contribution level.
Examine your emergency fund
Did you tap into your emergency fund during the first half of the year? If you haven’t replaced the money you spent, put a savings plan in place today to bring your emergency fund back to its original level. Most CPAs suggest that you have enough money in your emergency fund to cover six months of living expenses.
Investigate your investment plan
Allocating your investments across the three major asset classes — stocks, bonds, and cash equivalents — is the key to successful investing. Take a look at your asset allocation and do a mid-year rebalancing if one class in your portfolio performed very well or very poorly.
Fine tune your fringe benefits
Many companies hold open enrollment sessions for benefits in the fall. This makes summer a good time to start thinking about your needs. If the information is available from your employer, research and review your choices now so you don’t need to rush through the exercise when the enrollment window opens.
Hone in on the holidays
If you don’t plan ahead, expenses associated with the holiday season can wreak havoc on your finances. Come up with a holiday budget now, and use the next six months to save what you’ll need.
Consult with a CPA
With the tax season over and year-end tax planning a ways off, now is a great
time to seek the help of a CPA in completing your mid-year review. The changes
you make now can make the difference in achieving a successful 2007.
The Virginia Society of CPAs is the leading professional association dedicated to enhancing the success of all CPAs and their profession by communicating information and vision, promoting professionalism, and advocating members’ interests. Founded in 1909, the Society has nearly 8,000 members who work in public accounting, industry, government and education. This Money Management column and other financial news articles can be found in the Press Room on the VSCPA Web site at www.vscpa.com.
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