When you think of progress reports, you probably think about the reports your kids get from school, showing you where they’re doing well and where they need improvement. Yet progress reports aren’t just for school – they’re important in monitoring your financial situation as well. Matt Allgeyer, Financial Planner at Wamhoff Financial Planning and Accounting Services, outlines the areas to explore in your financial progress report.
When to do it:
- Mid-career is a great time to do a financial progress report (if you haven’t done so already).
- This is a time when you’re established in your career, are no longer living paycheck to paycheck, have cash reserves for emergencies, and still have some time before you retire.
First, assess your debt:
- Ask yourself if the debt you have is an appropriate amount – do you take on more debt than is wise?
- How many loans do you have, and what are they for? Are they car loans, student loans, credit card debt?
- If you have, or are planning to, purchase a big ticket item and borrow the money via a free interest program offered by the store, be sure you have the funds to pay it off before the interest-free period expires. These types of programs typically apply to furniture, electronics, appliances, and other large purchases.
Look to the future:
- How do you want to live in retirement, and what will it cost?
- Until you know your goals and how much money you will need, you cannot create a plan to get you there.
- Do I have a defined investment strategy?
- Whether it’s paying down your debt, becoming debt-free, or growing your investment assets, you need to know your tolerance, disposable income that can be applied to these things, and your budget.
- Remember, the younger you are when you start saving, the more time you have for your investments to grow.
Don’t pass up “free” money:
- If your employer offers a match on your 401(k) or retirement plan, contribute at least up to the level of the match.
- The contribution they make on your behalf is free money going into your retirement and can add up very quickly.
- Even if you’re saving in other ways, you may want to reconsider those other avenues to accommodate your ability to contribute and take advantage of the employer match.