Fall Financial Check-Up: Financial Planning Firm Asks, Are You on a ‘Train Wreck’ Course?

Financial New Year’s resolutions are great – what better way to start the year off than with a new set of goals and a renewed focus.

A mid-year check-in is wise – but did you get around to it with vacations and summer plans?  

Now that fall is approaching, as a financial planning firm in Houston, TX, we wanted to check-in with you once again to make sure you’re on the right track and that you haven’t overlooked a critical piece of the retirement puzzle.

If you’re getting ready to transition into retirement, download our new checklist.

If you’re still a few years from retirement, but it’s quickly approaching, sign-up for our retirement countdown. We’ll send you a helpful tip once a week.

If you’re stumped on where to start, take a look at the following 4 main areas in your financial plan:

 

1. Cashflow 

When it comes to cashflow, you’ll want to check-in on: 

Your Budget

Ideally, you want to review your budget at least weekly or monthly. But as we start the second half of the year, it is the perfect time to do a thorough evaluation of your spending and saving categories to see if anything needs adjusting.

If you’re getting close to retirement, now is also an ideal time to create a preliminary retirement budget. Your expenses and income will likely shift once you enter retirement. Creating this budget will give you an idea of how much you may need to live on each month. The key to this budgeting exercise is to anticipate how your spending patterns will be altered once you retire.

Your Emergency Fund

Generally speaking, a healthy emergency fund should have enough to cover at least three to six months’ worth of expenses. As people return to work, start new jobs or adjust their plans after the shelter-in-place restrictions in 2020, many people’s emergency funds have been depleted. As you near retirement, you may want to consider increasing this amount to account for any unforeseen expenses or potential downturns in the market.

Ask yourself how much money you would need to have on hand to feel comfortable if something was to happen to your income. Discuss your situation and different scenarios with a financial advisor to determine an amount that works for you.

Your Debt

How much progress have you made toward paying down your debt? The less debt you carry into retirement, the less money you’ll need to live on every month – and the more you’ll have to fund your retirement dreams. And remember, not all debt is bad. A very low fixed interest rate mortgage on your home may be a debt you should plan to keep in retirement.

If your debt is increasing, it may be time to adjust your focus and begin aggressively paying it down before you retire. If your goal is to be completely debt-free, calculate how much money you need to put toward your debt each month to reach that goal by your target retirement date. 

 

Are you on track to reaching your financial goals? Contact the team at Linscomb & Williams and start the conversation.

 

2. Savings

When it comes to saving, there are 3 items you’ll want to review:

Your Retirement

Take a look at your 401(k), your Traditional and Roth IRAs, your employer matches and any other forms of retirement savings you have to see where you’re at. Are you contributing the maximum amount for the year? Doing so can be a great way to save for retirement in a hurry. If you’re age 50 or older, you can make catch-up contributions to save even more. 

If you have a high-deductible healthcare plan, talk to a financial advisor about opening a Health Savings Account (HSA), which can be a great way to save for future healthcare expenses. 

If you’ve maxed out all your retirement contributions for the year and still have money to save, talk to a financial advisor to see if there’s anything else you should be doing. 

Your Short-Term Goals 

What short-term goals do you have on the horizon? Maybe you’re saving for your daughter’s upcoming wedding, you grandson’s college fund or renovations on your home. Whatever it is, evaluate your progress to see if you’re on track to reach your goals. If you’ve already met some of your targets this year, make sure your financial plan is adjusted accordingly. There’s no reason to save for your children’s college if they’ve already graduated!

Since your short-term-goal money is typically kept in a savings account, now is also a good time to review your account details to make sure you’re getting a competitive interest rate and not paying any fees on your savings.

Other Long-Term Goals

The biggest long-term goal on your list is likely saving for a comfortable retirement, but it could also include paying off your mortgage early or becoming debt-free. Same as you did for your short-term goals, review your progress to see if you’re on track to reach your targets. 

Admittedly, figuring out if you’re on track to hit long-term goals (like retirement) is much more complex than tracking your progress for short-term goals. If you’re struggling with this step, it may be beneficial to work with a financial advisor who can help you crunch the numbers

3. Investments

Your investment portfolio is another element you’ll want to review, specifically:

Your Asset Allocation

It’s normal for your asset allocation to slowly drift off target as some of your investments perform better than others. As you near retirement, ignoring your asset allocation could introduce unnecessary risk into your portfolio if it’s too heavily weighted in a specific area.

There are several strategies you can use to adjust your asset allocation, including tax-loss harvesting. There could be tax consequences associated with each, so consult a professional to see which strategy makes sense for you. 

Your Portfolio’s Performance

How has your portfolio performed over the past 12 months relative to the total market? If your portfolio has taken a hit while the total market excels, it could be a sign for change. Download our complimentary eBook: How to Retire During Volatile Market Conditions.

Your Risk

At Linscomb & Williams, a client’s risk tolerance is at the heart of any financial planning. As you transition from accumulating wealth to living off of it in retirement, you’ll want to be mindful of the risk exposure in your portfolio. Is now a good time to incorporate a more conservative investment strategy? As the life expectancy in America continues to improve, your retirement money may need to cover you for 20, 30, even 40 years. Are you at risk of outliving your money?

4. Estate Planning 

Last but certainly not least, make sure to review your estate plan, specifically:

Your Beneficiaries

At one time, you may have been dead-set on leaving certain assets to specific individuals, but what if you divorced recently? Got married? Had kids or grandkids? Experienced a death in the family?

Reviewing your beneficiaries on a regular basis is a great way to ensure the current recipients and allotments are in-line with what you want.

Your Assets 

The assets in your estate plan could include insurance policies, real estate, businesses, bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts or any other holdings you may have. 

If you’ve acquired any new assets since you last reviewed your estate plan, now is the time to add them in. You should also review each asset to ensure it’s set up in a way to minimize any estate tax, income tax or gift tax it could be subject to.

Your Plans

Review your estate plan, will and trust (if applicable) to make sure you’re still satisfied with the choices you made when they were originally established. Now is also a good time to update your executor, trustee and power of attorney, if applicable.

Need Help Conducting Your Financial Check-Up?

Once you’ve completed your fall-time financial check-up, consider getting a second opinion to see if there’s anything you may have overlooked. This is also a great opportunity to get answers to your financial questions and make certain you’re on the right track to retire.

Some financial planning firms in Houston, and anywhere for that matter, follow a set-it-and-forget-it strategy, but not at Linscomb & Williams. Schedule a complimentary consultation with the Linscomb & Williams team to see where you stand.

 

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Lauren Rich, CFP®

Lauren Rich, CFP®

Lauren Rich is a principal and wealth advisor for Linscomb & Williams.

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