You may have had your annual physical exam and taken your car in for scheduled service this year, but what about your annual financial checkup? If you were on a long road trip, you’d stop occasionally and look at the map to see if you were headed in the right direction. Wouldn’t you? Well, an annual financial checkup serves the same purpose. It’s an opportunity to review how you’ve done over the past year with your budget and your savings, evaluate how your investments are doing, and make sure you’re still headed in the right direction.A good time to do your annual financial checkup is before tax season so you can take advantage of any tax saving strategies, but if you didn’t fit it in during the busy holiday season, plan on doing it as soon as possible.
The first step in your financial checkup is evaluating your goals. Have you made progress on your financial goals last year? If not, where have you fallen short? Can you figure out why? Have your goals changed during the year? If so, revise them and write them down.
Have changes in your personal situation taken place in the last year or do you anticipate any major changes in the near future?
A job change, adding a baby to your family, retiring, buying a house, getting married or moving can alter your income and your lifestyle significantly. You may need to adapt your budget, your spending, your savings and your investments. Having time to plan for these changes in advance will make the transition much smoother.
Next, evaluate your protection of your assets. Review your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, health insurance and auto insurance. Don’t forget considering to protect the greatest asset of all, your income earning ability, with long-term disability insurance.
Review your will and your estate plan. Have any changes taken place that require updating? Calculate the return on each of your stocks, bonds or mutual funds.
How are you doing on controlling and paying down debt? Has your credit card debt decreased this year? It’s difficult to get ahead and invest when too much of your income is going to interest payments on credit cards. How’s the interest rate on your mortgage? Should you consider refinancing? Even a small dip in rates can make a big difference over the life of your mortgage.
This is a good time to plan for next year’s taxes. What can you do to minimize them? Review the list of allowable deductions and make sure you take advantage of any you’re eligible for. Consider bunching deductions into one year or accelerating deductions by paying tax-deductible items early to help you reach the threshold for deducting.
How are you doing on your retirement funds? Are you contributing the maximum to your 401(k) plan? This is one of the best tax-reducing strategies available.
How did you do? If your financial health is in good shape, congratulations! If it can use a little work, at least you know where you need to concentrate your efforts.
Don’t Overlook The Tax
Break Of Mortgage Points
If you have ever taken out a mortgage, you probably already know of the tax advantage provided by deducting your mortgage interest payments.
But many homeowners overlook another tax break available for points paid to get a home loan. In some cases, points also could shave tax bills for folks who refinanced or got an equity loan or line of credit. Each point is 1 percent of the loan amount.
Getting The Maximum Deduction
Loan points are fully deductible in the year paid if they meet all of these requirements:
- The loan is secured by your main home, the house you
live in most of the time.Paying points is an established business practice in your area.The points are generally what is charged.The loan is used to buy or build your main home.The points are computed as a percentage of your mortgage’s principal amount.The amount is clearly shown on the settlement statement
as points charged for the mortgage.
Any and all of the above is included only for general information and not to be construed as tax or legal advice. You should take any questions to your tax or legal advisor for clarification.
Advice For Sellers!
Extend The Selling Season
Spring is the best time to find the broadest universe of buyers and sellers. Parents don’t want to uproot their kids from schools mid-term and would like to settle in a new neighborhood by mid-summer. Many sell at the same time they buy. These days, bspringb really means late winter. So if you’re going to sell in 2015, get your house ready for showings by late March. That will give you nearly five months until this buying-and-selling group starts dwindling by mid-July.
Evaluate Your Listing Photos
Never underestimate the power of listing photos. These images are buyers’ first introduction to your listing, and if they’re lackluster and unimpressive, they’ll move on without a second thought. Here are some of the most common photo mistakes.
- Missing Exterior ShotKitchen is LacklusterNo Focus on the Master BedroomBathrooms Look UnappealingSpecial Features Aren’t HighlightedKey Photos Are Missing
Wrong Photo Orientation
Home Is Full of Clutter
Out Of Focus
15 For Retirement
This might qualify as an old-fashioned and quaint notion. But if you’re still committed to paying off your debt, a low rate on a 15-year mortgage presents an interesting opportunity to rethink your retirement planning strategy. For what it’s worth, the payment on a 15-year loan today is what you would have paid for a conforming 30-year mortgage some time ago. That’s how cheap this is in historical terms.
The 15-year is a ridiculously great deal. What’s that got to do with your retirement? Housing costs are a major reason older folks are running into financial trouble these days. Paying off your mortgage before you retire is one of the surer ways to give yourself a shot at a stress free retirement. And assuming you have the equity and income to refinance, choosing a 15 year will speed up the payback and save tens of thousands of dollars in interest costs in the process.
If you’re in your 50s and just a few years into paying off a 30-year mortgage, this move gets you mortgage-free before you retire. Might that be worth trying to find an extra $150 or so a week to put toward the mortgage? Or if that’s not feasible, consider the idea of scaling back your 401(k) contributions to free up more money for the mortgage. Yes, you’ll have less saved in your 401(k) come retirement. You’ll also have much lower housing costs in retirement, right? That’s not to suggest you stop contributing to the 401(k) altogether. This is about reducing the contribution rate so you can knock off one of your biggest (if not the biggest) retirement costs: the mortgage.
The rigidity of committing to the 15-year is sometimes needed to get you to stick to an aggressive repayment plan. The 15- year could be just the push you need to wipe out one of your biggest financial stresses before you retire.