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

8 VALENTINE’S DAY HACKS

8 valentines hacks

Celebrate the significant other in your life without breaking the budget…by using these hacks!

  1. Dine-in

    Restaurants sometimes up their prices when the whole world is going out to eat, so you’ll likely be paying extra just because it’s Valentine’s Day. Instead of shelling out big bucks, cook up a gourmet meal at home. Don’t forget to set the ambiance with scented candles and soft music!

  2. Explore the great outdoors

    It may be cold out, but you can still spend some shared time together outdoors. Bundle up and take a refreshing walk under the stars. Watch the waves crash onto the shore at a beach. If it’s snowy out, let your inner child free and build a snowman together.

  3. Laugh it out

    Check out the local comedy club together for a rollicking good time that can cost as little as $5 each.

  4. Hit the gym

    Gym memberships and day passes usually decline in February when many people have abandoned their New Year’s resolutions to get fit. A shared workout can be a great bonding experience that’s good for your health and your wallet, too.

  5. Make a memory box

    Instead of expensive gifts, take a walk down memory lane together by making a memory box. Cover a small container in decorative material, or spray-paint it in your chosen color. Then throw in mementos you have saved up from your months or years of dating.
    Grab a tub of ice cream and enjoy a wonderful evening reliving some of your best shared moments.

  6. Get cultured

    Give your date a refreshing twist by visiting a local museum! Choose a place with displays that appeal to each of your interests. Studying works of art or historical artifacts makes for fabulous conversation.

  7. Gift them with a gesture

    Everyone has a guilty pleasure they can’t get enough of. Give your partner an all-out indulgence fest this Valentine’s Day for a truly thoughtful gift. If your significant other loves waking up to a huge stack of pancakes, surprise them with their dream breakfast-in-bed. If they have a thing for Snicker bars, fill a huge, funky container with their favorite chocolates.
    You can also offer to do a household chore you know your partner loathes, like doing laundry. Decorate a small piece of cardstock and write up a “certificate” that gifts the recipient with four loads of laundry, washed, dried and put away. It won’t cost you anything, and it’s sure to put a smile on your partner’s face!

  8. Movie matinee

    Instead of paying full price for movie tickets, see your favorite picture at a daytime matinee. You’ll save a bundle on tickets just by going a bit earlier in the day. Theaters are also less crowded during the afternoon, making for a more enjoyable experience all around.

On behalf of everyone at Freedom, we wish you a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

About Freedom Federal Credit Union

Freedom serves and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, attends school, volunteers, or has family in Harford County, MD. As a credit union, we are committed to putting you first, not shareholders, and helping you achieve your financial goals. Learn more at freedomfcu.org or call us 800-440-4120 to see how we can help.

Taking Steps Towards Financial Improvement For The New Year

The start of a New Year is a wonderful time to make important changes in your financial life. And you don’t have to go it alone. Here are some tips on financial improvements you can make starting now. And know that Freedom Federal Credit Union will be here with you every step of the way.

We’ve broken down some of the most popular financial resolutions into concrete steps and outlined the ways Freedom can help you implement each change into your life.

Build a Budget

Why it’s crucial: Creating and sticking to a monthly budget will force you to be accountable for your spending while giving you a clear idea of your financial reality.

In 3 steps:

  • Track your spending over three months.
  • Using a spreadsheet, or a personal finance app like Mint, divide your expenses into categories, such as mortgage, auto, groceries, entertainment, etc. Use an average of the last three months to set a reasonable spending limit for each category.
  • Going forward, track your spending and be sure to stick to your preset limits for each category.

If your budget reveals your monthly income doesn’t cover your expenses, or you find you’re overspending in any area, look for ways to cut back.

How Freedom can help: Stop in at any time to speak to a Financial Service Representative for help with managing your money. We also offer our members great online budgeting software and financial educations tools, absolutely free.

Get Out of Debt

Why it’s crucial: Carrying long-term debt can often mean paying extremely high amounts of interest for years on end. It can also devastate your credit score.

In 3 steps:

  • Make a complete list of all your outstanding debts, in order, from smallest balance to largest.
  • Review your monthly budget and look for ways to cut back. Alternatively, you can look for ways to increase your monthly income.
  • Work on paying off your smallest debt with the money you trimmed from your budget. Once you’ve paid off that debt, move on to the second-smallest. Repeat until you’re completely debt-free.

How Freedom can help: If you’re carrying multiple high-interest rate debts, consider taking out a debt consolidation loan to simply things. This way, you’ll only have one low-interest loan payment each month. It may even reduce the total amount you’ll pay each month.

Start (or Increase) Savings

Why it’s crucial: According to the Federal Reserve, 40% of Americans can’t cover a $400 expense. Living without a safety net means a relatively small, unexpected expense can throw off your finances and force you into debt. Aside for paying for emergencies, savings can help fund your long-term plans, goals and dreams.

In 3 steps:

  • Review your monthly budget to identify your biggest spending traps. Then, find ways to cut back, such as shopping with cash only, cancelling subscriptions you never use or initiating a “financial fast” one weekend each month, in which you spend no money.
  • Use all money saved to open an emergency fund and a long-term savings fund at Freedom Federal Credit Union. It’s best to focus primarily on your emergency fund until you have 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses stashed away.
  • Set up an automatic monthly transfer from your Freedom Checking account to your Freedom Savings account(s) so you can focus on your savings without thinking about it.

How Freedom can help: Freedom offers several options for Savings and Checking Accounts that provide excellent opportunities for growth. You can open an account today with an initial deposit as low as $1.00.

Maximize Your Retirement Contributions

Why it’s crucial: Many workplaces offer to match 401(k) contributions. These contributions aren’t taxed and they come off your paycheck, which is taxed, making participation an excellent decision.

In 3 steps:

  • Speak to an HR representative at your workplace to find out about your current 401(k) contributions.
  • Identify how to best maximize your 401(k) contributions going forward.
  • If you have any other retirement funds, such as an IRA or a Roth IRA, also review your contributions to determine if you are making the maximum funding allowed.

How Freedom FCU can help: Our Financial Service Representatives will be happy to help you determine the best course of action for planning your retirement. Let Freedom help you meet your financial goals this year.

On behalf of everyone at Freedom, we wish you a very Joyous and Happy New Year.

 

About Freedom Federal Credit Union

Freedom serves and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, attends school, volunteers, or has family in Harford County, MD. As a credit union, we are committed to putting you first, not shareholders, and helping you achieve your financial goals. Learn more at freedomfcu.org or call us 800-440-4120 to see how we can help.