October is national financial planning month
By Esperanza Romero, Army Community ServiceOctober 8, 2020
As 2020 nears its end, this is the perfect time to evaluate your financial plans and goals in preparation for 2021. Are there things you intended to do in 2020 that you may still accomplish? Maybe it’s maxing out your Thrift Savings Plan (2020 limit is $19,500) or increasing your emergency fund to a certain amount. With the holiday season nearly here, it’s important to remember your goals in order to remain on track. Evaluate your spend plan, savings, debt and insurance coverages to ensure you meet your financial goals.One of the best tools to help stay on track is a spend plan. If you already have a working spend plan, review it for accuracy and make necessary changes. If you don’t have one, now is a good time to create one. While developing your spend plan, ensure to account for all income and expenditures in the household. If your discretionary income (income after all taxes and bills are paid) is not what you want it to be, consider reducing unnecessary expenses. Areas such as unused memberships/subscriptions and dining out can greatly reduce your discretionary income. Remember, always prioritize needs over wants.Is your retirement savings sufficient? Do not neglect to include savings into your spend plan. A quick google search will yield several retirement calculators. The amount of money you’ll need into retirement depends on your lifestyle. Do you have an emergency fund? It is recommended to save 10% of your income each month. Experts say the average family may need 80% of the pre-retirement salary to live comfortable. It’s important to have the discipline to maintain savings and not remove money unless it is a true emergency. If withdrawals are unavoidable, implement a plan to replenish the withdrawn funds.Paying down debt is also an integral portion of your plan. Many people get overwhelmed when thinking about debt and developing a strategy to pay it down. Debt, not including your mortgage, should consume less than 20% of your income. With your mortgage, debt should equal 40% or less. Paying the debt with the highest interest first will reduce the amount of interest you pay and saves more money; however, paying the smallest balances first allows you to see progress quicker.Don’t forget about insurance coverage. Review auto insurance policies to ensure you have adequate coverage. If you’re not satisfied with the cost and/or coverage, shop around to find the policy that fits your needs. Other insurances to consider are disability and long-term care. These insurances are not mandatory therefore are often declined due to the associated cost. It’s important to consider current and future needs for yourself and family as well as the cost of not having coverage if it’s needed. This is especially important if your dependents rely on you and your income. Review your policy and update beneficiary information at least yearly or as your family changes.Army Community Service (ACS) can assist with your financial planning needs. Call 751-5256 to schedule an appointment with a Personal Financial Readiness Specialists.