October is Financial Planning Month: A great time to evaluate your finances
With October designated Financial Planning Month and the end of the year approaching, it is a good time to review your finances and make or revisit your financial plan.
Attaining and maintaining the financial resources to pursue your goals can be daunting. However, a well-thought-out plan can help you define, articulate and take steps toward achieving your long-term financial goals.
Here are some tips that will help you take control of your financial future and work toward meeting your financial goals:
- Make a budget and stick to it. There are several online spreadsheets, trackers and apps that can help you prioritize and document how you spend your money.
- Start an emergency fund. Ideally, you should have three to six months of living expenses saved up to pay for the unforeseen. Dealing with an emergency is hard enough without having to borrow money to pay for it. Plan to save a portion of your paycheck to build up a reserve fund.
- Review your retirement assets. Whether your retirement is a long way off or right around the corner, it is likely that you’ll have to make periodic adjustments to your retirement portfolio. Make sure the investments you’ve chosen are still an accurate reflection of your risk tolerance and time horizon. It is also a good opportunity to consider the amount you are investing and whether or not it is a good time to increase or decrease that based on your financial situation.
- Assess your income tax picture. You may be able to reduce your tax burden — sometimes significantly — by making strategic tax decisions before the end of the year. Your tax professional can alert you to any tax planning strategies that might make sense for your situation.
- Review critical documents. Because life’s circumstances continually change, you should review your legal documents and beneficiary designations every year. This will entail carefully combing through any wills, trusts, retirement plan documents and life insurance policies to make sure they’re up-to-date. Seek the assistance of a qualified adviser if any modifications are necessary.
- Set goals for next year and beyond. A year-end review is an excellent time to start thinking about next year and setting long-term goals. Take a close look at your day-to-day finances to see if you can reduce expenses and save more. Then, make an honest assessment of which goals are most important to you and commit to meeting them.
A financial plan should be a working document. It changes as your priorities shift. Marriage, children and career changes can impact your financial situation, which is why it is recommended that you revisit your plan at least once a year. Make setting your long-term financial goals a priority both this month, and throughout the year.
Stephen Stribling is a Financial Advisor with the Global Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley in Denver.
The information contained in this interview is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice. The strategies and/or investments referenced may not be suitable for all investors as the appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives. Investing involves risks and there is always the potential of losing money when you invest. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, or its affiliates. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC, member SIPC.
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