The first quarter of the year is an ideal opportunity for savers, investors, homeowners, etc. to implement some minor money moves that could result in a major savings (short term and long term). Below are 10 key items to consider:
#1: Think about increasing your monthly workplace retirement plan contributions or maxing out your IRA(s) early in the year. Most companies will allow you to regularly adjust your contribution percentage or dollar amount.
#2: Review the declared beneficiaries on your investment accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policy – are they up to date? Most folks elect beneficiaries at inception and forget to adjust as needed.
#3: Your investment portfolio might be heavily weighted in equities. To start 2018, we’ve seen some market volatility that may require some reasonable portfolio re-balancing. Do you adjust your contributions or your entire portfolio? Consult a qualified and trusted financial adviser.
#4: Consult an insurance agent and review your coverage. Personally, I am a fan of insurance brokers that can leverage insurance relationships and coverage on your behalf. You’d be surprised how often you can find monthly and/or annual savings by switching your auto insurance to another carrier or by raising your deductible on your current policy. Homeowners insurance – do you have too much? It happens; you may be insurance rich and not know the difference. Homeowners insurance premiums are generally paid through a mortgage escrow account. Since you don’t have to stroke a check directly to the insurance company, you’ll often overlook what can be a significant savings opportunity.
#5: Short term adjustable rates are fluctuating in today’s market. As the feds raise interest rates, credit cards, student loans, and home equity line of credit (HELOC) rates may vary as well. Some HELOC services offer conversion options. Instead of just paying a higher monthly payment (and interest), call the provider and discover what lock (conversion) or refinance options are available to you. Over the past seven to eight years, many homeowners have gained equity. There may be some mortgage refinance options to consider.
#6: Estate planning – this is something you need to do, but may not want to do! From initial planning to reviewing annually, make sure your estate planning is in good order. I once had a great attorney friend tell me that an estate plan should be reviewed annually, or every time there is a “cry event.” Cry event = family member death, birth, wedding, divorce, key birthday, retirement, etc.
#7: Make sure your home cable or satellite subscriptions accurately reflect your viewing habits. Many of these services offer a la-cart viewing packages that can be adjusted just by logging into your account. Recently I saved $75 per month by eliminating unnecessary channels. And I didn’t have to call the provider; I simply logged into my subscription account and performed this task with no hassle.
#8: Credit card points – have you used them? Most credit card companies have rewards or point options that accumulate over time. Often those points expire. Make sure you log into your online credit card account and redeem those unused points for travel vouchers, gift certificates, or other forms of cash incentives.
#9: This is as good a time as any to check your credit. You can visit annualcreditreport.com and request a free copy of your credit report from each of the nation’s three major credit bureaus. Identity theft is at an all-time high. Protect your credit rating and make sure your creditors are reporting accurately!
#10: Adjust your 2018 withholdings based on your 2017 tax liability. Your employers’ HR or Payroll department will allow you to adjust your tax amount so that your withholdings match your estimated family tax liability.