Silicon Valley Blogger over at TheDigeratiLife.com has a great list of tasks that she is hoping to complete before (or just after) year’s end. I hope she won’t mind, but I’m going to copy her list and include thoughts (for my family’s situation) below each one.
- Review our credit card report and checking account expense report for the year and see where all the money went. This will be a very interesting exercise for us, as always. I generally try to keep up with our spending in Microsoft Money, but I’ve fallen a couple of months behind. It is very helpful to categorize the spending in order to run reports and analyze where you’re blowing it all. I’ve added a few new categories in order to more closely monitor our gift spending (gifts for friend, gifts for family, and gifts for our little family) this year, so that will give us more detail than we previously had.
- Review our annual account statements that are usually provided by financial institutions. I generally review these as they come in, so there’s not too much catch-up for us in this area.
- Evaluate our financial strategies such as debt reduction, investment plans, insurance policies and budgets. Since my wife is tired of running the numbers and talking about all my hair-brained plans for paying off our mortgage, we won’t be dedicating too much thought to debt reduction. Fortunately we’ve been able to pay everything off except our mortgages.
- Review and balance our portfolio. Despite the fact that I really like the way the words “investment portfolio” sound, I don’t really consider what we have a “portfolio.” In the strictest sense it probably is, but it’s a fairly uncomplicated/unsophisticated collection of two Roth IRAs, a 401k through work, savings and checking accounts, and a couple of CD’s. We don’t have a very clear definition of what “balanced” means to us, so it’s as balanced as it’s going to get until we come up with something better.
- Give away gifts to my children or other people within the gift tax limit. We contribute $10 a month (I know it’s not much, but we’re not saving enough towards our own retirement as it stands) to our children’s savings accounts, and without any “surplus” cash to speak of, we’re unlikely to do anything on this point.
- Check into our IRA accounts. We’re specifically going to look into having money automatically withdrawn each month from our checking or savings account. This has been a goal for quite a while now but for some reason we haven’t gotten around to it. One of the stumbling blocks has been that we’re not sure how much to throw at it each month, so we’re going to start with $10 each per month or whatever the minimum amount is that they allow. At some future date we’ll set some goals and bump up our monthly contributions. As it stands, our only contributions to our Roth IRA’s for calendar year 2006 will be whatever tax refund we receive (if any). Gosh, that’s awful! We are contributing 6% of my gross to my 401k, so we haven’t completely abandoned retirement savings . . .
- Ensure that the flexible spending plan we funded was well worth the time and trouble. This is our first year participating in an FSA, and we haven’t submitted any claims yet, so we will be evaluating how much trouble it is. High on our priority list is submitting our expenses to make sure that none of the money goes to waste!
- Take our losses like an adult. We don’t have anything to report here.
- Give to charity. Our primary charitable donations are through our church, and we do that on a monthly basis, so there’s no major push at the end of the year or need to catch up.
- Prepare for any end of year windfalls. Wouldn’t that be nice! I don’t expect any windfalls at all, but as I indicated, if we get a tax refund, it will all go towards our Roth IRAs. That’s obviously not the ideal way to fund it because we’re not dollar-cost-averaging, and we’re letting the size of our contribution depend 100% on what we receive, but it’s certainly much, much better than blowing the refund on some kind of purchase, or worse yet, using it as a down payment to incur more debt!
Question(s) of the day:
What is on your personal finance to-do list?