Ways to reprioritize finances in the fall
Let’s face it — summer can be expensive between vacations, home improvements, the cost of children’s camps and dining out. Now that the calendar has flipped to fall, you may want to take this opportunity to check in on your financial well-being and ensure you’re on track for the remainder of the year.
— Refocus on your goals: Assess your finances to see if you may have strayed from your financial goals (which hopefully you set back in January). If you’re far behind the targets you’ve set, review your spending habits and try to identify which choices and activities have contributed to this. There’s still time to get back on track.
— Monitor your credit: Get back in the habit of checking your accounts frequently. Doing so can help you keep an eye on recent purchases and may help detect and prevent fraud. Make sure to monitor your credit score, too. You can request a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus at least once per calendar year. Review each report for accuracy and signs of identity theft.
— Consider refinancing options: If your mortgage is not at a competitive rate, now may be a good time to refinance before rates go higher. Lowering your interest rate by even a quarter of a percent can potentially add up to thousands of dollars in savings over the life of a loan.
— Be strategic with your health and flexible spending accounts: If you have funds in an employer-sponsored flexible savings account, remember that the money expires at the end of the year. (The IRS allows you to roll over up to $500 to the next calendar year.) It may make sense to schedule health appointments soon, before the school year and holiday season are in full swing. You can use your tax-advantaged account to pay for regular medical and dental bills, eye exams, eyeglasses, chiropractic care and mental health counseling. If you have a health savings account, the funds don’t expire. Consider using the funds for various health expenses this year, or keep the money invested for future needs, which may include retirement health expenses. You have until the tax filing deadline, generally April 15, to make your annual contribution to the account for the prior year. Contribution limits vary based on certain factors, including whether you have single or family high deductible health plan coverage, so check with your tax professional.
— Increase contributions: Boost your retirement accounts and reduce your taxable income by contributing the maximum amount to your tax-deferred IRA and 401(k) accounts. Your contributions will not be taxed in the current year. Plus, when you eventually withdraw the savings in retirement, you will probably be taxed at a lower rate.
— Protect yourself. Review your insurance policies and evaluate if you have the appropriate coverage. Look for savings from bundling policies and pursue eligible discounts, such as a safe driver discount on auto insurance.
As you re-assess your financial well-being this fall, consider working with a financial advisor who can help you sort through potential challenges, identify your key goals and develop a strategy.