How Do I Give Myself an End-of-Year Financial Review?

Year End Financial Check Up

Freedom Federal Credit Union Recommends This 6-Step Financial Check-up Before 2021

Q: With 2020 drawing to a close, I’d love to give myself an end-of-year financial review before it goes.  Where do I begin?

A: Giving yourself an end-of-year financial review is a wonderful way to check on the progress you’ve made toward your goals, highlight areas needing improvement and update your accounts, funds and investments. Here’s all you need to know about this important end-of-year ritual from Freedom Federal Credit Union.

 

Step 1: Review all your debts and create a payoff plan

Take a few minutes to list all your debts and their interest rates. Have you made any real progress toward paying them off this year? Or have you stuck with minimal payments each month, leaving the actual balance to pile up since you’re mostly just paying for interest?

If your debt needs some help, you have two primary options for how to proceed:

  • The avalanche method. Focus on paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first, and then continue to the debt with the second-highest interest rate. Move through the list until you’ve paid off all debts.
  • The snowball method. Work your way through your debts, starting with the lowest-balance debt. Then, once it’s paid off, apply the payment that was previously committed to that debt to your new lowest debt. Repeat through the rest until all debts are paid off.

For both methods, be sure to pay the minimum balance on all your other debts each month. Try to boost your income and/or trim your monthly spending for extra cash and use it toward the first debt you are paying off completely.

Step 2: Automate your savings

Review your savings from 2020. Have you reached your goals? Have you forgotten to put money into savings each month?

Going forward, make it easy by automating your savings. Give us a call at to set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to your savings account. [You can also set this up through your online and/or mobile banking with us.] This way, you’ll never forget to put money into savings again.

Step 3: Review the progress you have (or haven’t) made on financial goals

Have you made measurable progress toward your financial goals in 2020?

Take a few minutes to review your past goals, taking note of your progress and determining how you can move toward achieving them.

Step 4: Review your retirement account(s) and investments

As you work through this crucial step, be sure to review the following variables:

  • Your employer’s matching contributions. Are you taking advantage of this free money, or leaving some of it on the table?
  • The maximum IRA contribution limits for 2021. You will likely need to make adjustments for the coming year.
  • Management fees and expense ratios for your investments. Fees should ideally be less than 0.1%.
  • Your stock/bond ratio and investing style. You may want to take more risks in 2021 or decide to play it safer this year.
  • Your portfolio’s balance. Does it need adjusting?
Step 5: Create an ICE Binder

The events of 2020 underscored the importance of making plans in case one becomes incapacitated for any reason. Create an In-Case-of-Emergency (ICE) Binder to hold all your important documents in one place in case the unthinkable happens. Because of the sensitive nature of the information it holds, be sure to keep this in a safe place where it will not fall into the hands of identity thieves.

Include the following in your binder:

  • Medical information
  • Account information
  • Child care and pet care details
  • Online accounts and passwords
  • Insurance policy documentation and details
  • Investment accounts and details
  • A copy of your life insurance policy
  • A copy of your living will
  • A copy of your last will and testament

Step 6: Set new financial goals for 2021

As you finish reviewing your financial progress of the past year, look forward to accomplishing greater financial goals in the coming year.

A great way to turn dreams into reality is to set goals that are SMART:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Realistic

Timely

Here are some goals you may want to set for the coming year:

  • Create a monthly budget before January. Be sure to include all expense categories. Review on the first of each month and tweak as necessary.
  • Review the week’s spending with your partner each Friday night.
  • Pay off your largest credit card bill by 2022.
  • Start a vacation fund in February.
  • Cut out two subscriptions you don’t really use by mid-year.
  • Slash your weekly grocery bill by 10% before May.

Wishing you a financially healthy New Year!

Your Turn: Do you have any additional steps for your own end-of-year financial review?  Tell us about it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. @FreedomFedCU

7 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day at Home

Earth Day

  1. Plant a garden. Earth Day, April 22, 2020, is the perfect time to plant that garden you’ve always wanted. Garden centers and home improvement stores are still open around the country, with many offering curbside pickup. Add a burst of color to your property with a row of flowers, try your hand at planting a vegetable garden, or plant a tree!
  2. Learn about recycling. Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day by learning about local recycling rules and refreshing your knowledge about what happens to the things we recycle. Share this information with your children as they are learning from home.
  3. Use the My Disney Experience app to explore the world of nature from home. Check out the “Wilderness Explorers at Home” feature on the app for a virtual tour of nature’s wonders.
  4. Learn about the plants in your neighborhood. Bring your daily walk around the neighborhood up a notch on Earth Day by looking out for plants in your area. You can use the Native Plant Finder website to find out which plants are native to your zip code. See how many of these plants you can find on your walk!
  5. Watch a documentary about our planet. Celebrate Earth Day by watching a fascinating documentary about the Earth. Netflix is now running “Our Planet,” an incredible docuseries hosted by David Attenborough that features beautiful footage from around the world. You can also check out Disney+ for Disneynature’s “Elephant” and “Dolphin Reef,” which conveniently offer downloadable activity packets for kids.
  6. Watch the NASA Science Live webcast. The space agency website will host a special edition of the webcast on Earth Day, April 22, at 3 p.m. EDT, featuring agency chief Jim Bridenstine.
  7. Join the Earthfest. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City is airing an all-day “Earthfest” on Wednesday. The live-streamed event will feature a full day of activities and education, including a “watch party” at 6 p.m. EDT, where participants can “hop aboard” a live flight to explore our neighboring planets.

Your Turn: Tell us how you’re celebrating Earth Day on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram! @FreedomFedCU

5 Bills You Can Skip or Delay Now

5 Bills You Can Skip or Delay Now

1. Memberships you can’t use now. 

Life has changed for the foreseeable future. Year-long memberships or season passes you might have thought you’d regularly use are pretty much worthless now. Cancel or pause your monthly membership at the gym and ask for a refund on season passes you may have purchased for a sports team or an amusement park.

2. Credit card payments

Most credit card companies are making allowances for borrowers who have been financially affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Reach out to yours and ask if you can skip this month’s payment without penalty or if you can pay a little less than usual to avoid a fee.

3. Auto insurance premiums

Contact your insurance provider to find out what kind of relief they’re offering consumers at this time. Allstate is allowing their subscribers to request to skip up to two consecutive payments without paying late fees. GEICO has announced they will not cancel coverage for consumers who miss payments or allow their policies to expire through April 30 and Liberty will be extending due dates without penalty until further notice.

4. Internet 

If you aren’t locked into an internet plan and you have kids or a college student now at home, consider switching to a free plan. Providers, like Arvig and Spectrum, are currently offering free internet and Wi-Fi to new customers with K-12 or college students at home. Qualifying customers will not have to pay for their service until school reopens.

5. Student loan payments

On March 20, President Donald Trump announced that all federal student loan borrowers can pause their payments for up to 60 days. Interest will not accrue on these missed payments. Many private student loan companies are making similar allowances for borrowers, so call your lender to discuss your options.