A recent report from the Insured Retirement Institute found that only 24% of Baby Boomers feel they have enough savings to last throughout their retirement years. Whether you are just starting your career or nearing retirement, this staggeringly low number indicates the critical need to pay close attention to your budget and monitor life changes to properly adjust your current financial approach.
To help steer your retirement in the right direction, here are four tips to gain a better understanding of your finances.
Remember that today’s decision impacts tomorrow
This can be both good and bad. People tend to live in the now and it can be difficult to comprehend that either a purchase or investment can have a large impact down the road. For example, putting away even a small monthly amount toward your retirement adds up. It can have an even greater effect when you start early in your career.
On the other side, you can make large purchases without acknowledging their impact on your ability to make progress on long-term goals like funding childrens’ education or your retirement.
When making big purchases, remember “hidden” costs
As we get older and have more available income, it’s common to purchase more expensive cars and bigger homes. It’s easy to determine the monthly payments, but don’t forget about the additional costs with big purchases. A larger home means higher utility costs and property taxes. A luxury car means higher registration fees and insurance. Especially as you get closer to retirement, keep these items in mind as you determine how much you need to retire comfortably.
Regularly evaluate your financial plan and situation
Schedule time to review your financial plan at least once each quarter. Treat your personal finances as though it is a business. Examples of what you should review include account allocation, estate planning documents, wills, trusts, insurance coverages, charitable donations and any type of cash flow.
It’s also important to consider whether something has changed in your life. Are you planning to retire earlier than expected? Has there been any changes with the health of your family?
Utilize your accountant and financial planners. Meet with your financial planner two to four times throughout the year to touch base and provide updates on what has changed in your personal life. These experts are there to help call attention to areas that may need to change in your plan. They also provide an outside perspective and help you maintain a level-headed position.
While it’s important to review your financial accounts regularly, I would highly discourage checking every day which can cause anxiety. It’s important to maintain a long-term outlook. You may be more likely to make an emotional decision about your investments if you get caught up in the account value on a day-to-day basis. Keep in mind that these investments are intended for use 10, 15, maybe 20 years or more down the road.
Technology is a blessing and a curse
Mintel’s Online Shopping U.S. Report 2015 shared that nearly 70% of adults in the U.S. shop online at least monthly. The convenience is wonderful, but consumers don’t get that physical interaction or reminder that they are spending money. You can click a button to add things to a cart, but you don’t have that experience of handing over money and really noticing an immediate impact on your finances.
However, there are numerous software programs available to help you track your budget and spending. Programs like Quicken and You Need a Budget can be used on smartphones and allow you to enter purchases as you make them. It really comes down to a principle that hasn’t changed from 30 years ago, and that is you need to be willing to put in the time to create a budget and monitor spending. If you wait until the end of the month to review spending, you’re already too late—the money is gone. If you track throughout the month, though, you get an updated budget number and can adjust spending while there is still time. When budgeting, it’s also important to keep in mind expenses that don’t happen on a monthly basis like taxes, car purchases, and vacations and to save for them along the way.
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