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Investor’s column: Eight steps to help you keep track of your personal finances

How To Plan For Retirement

"How to Plan for Retirement". A simple guide to help you retire with peace of mind.
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"How to Plan for Retirement". A simple guide to help you retire with peace of mind.

It seems like when summertime hits, time slows. Taxes are complete and vacation days are scheduled.

You may want to use this quiet period to check in on your family’s finances.

While doing a thorough analysis of your wealth may sound intimidating, here are eight simple steps to keep you focused and on-track.

1. Analyze your budget

In 2015, approximately 38 percent of Americans were breaking even with their spending, while 18 percent were spending more than they were making. This means less than half were accumulating savings.

A budget may not be fun, but using one that includes some savings goals will help put you in the right direction. Many credit cards or banks offer categorical breakdowns of your spending, which can be a great way to find out what you’re spending the most money on and if there’s room to cut back.

2. Seek out tax savings

Do you scramble to pull your paperwork together every March and April? This year, try taking a different approach to tax season by evaluating your tax-saving strategies early.

You may want to work with your financial planner or tax professional to review retirement plan and health savings account contributions. Tax law changes effective in 2018 may require changes in your approach to tax savings.

New Tom Breiter.jpg
Tom Breiter is the president of Integra Capital Advisors, a registered investment adviser, in Bradenton.

3. Tackle your debt

An alarming one-fifth of adults roll $2,500 or more in credit card debt each month. If you’re guilty of putting off managing your mounting expenses, now’s the time to start planning to pay it off.

Be wary of “bad debt” such as credit card debt, student loans, etc. that tend to carry higher interest rates. Paying down the debt that carries the highest interest charge first is usually the best idea.

4. Revisit short- and long-term goals

A lot can change in a year — marriage, death, divorce, growing your family and experiencing a major career change.

Even small adjustments, like a job promotion or sending a kid off to college, can have a significant impact on your financial status.

That’s why it’s important to regularly review your long-term goals and progress towards them while revisiting and evaluating your shorter term goals as well.

The New York Times asked journalism students around the country to talk to seniors about retirement. This is what they recorded.

5. Evaluate coverage and providers

As you’re reviewing your budget and expenses, take the extra time to thoroughly evaluate your current providers and coverage options. This includes internet, cable and wireless service providers in addition to your insurance coverage options.

If you tend to set up auto-payments and forget about your monthly bills, this could be an opportune time to revisit what it is you’re actually paying for.

6. Reassess and rebalance your portfolio

It’s important to visit your portfolio and risk tolerance regularly to help keep it in line with your tolerance, goals and market conditions.

While some managed portfolios will be rebalanced automatically, it’s important to take stock of your investments’ big picture. Doing so can help you determine if you need to diversify differently or reassess your risk tolerance.

7. Review your retirement savings

Whether retirement is decades down the line or within the upcoming year, reviewing your retirement savings on an annual basis is a great habit to start.

Take the time to assess whether you’re maxing out your retirement contribution options and how the savings you’re making today will translate into retirement income later down the line.

8. Assess your estate plan

It’s not fun to plan for the worst-case scenario, but leaving your family with an outdated will, trust or estate plan can lead to some major issues down the line.

As you assess your legacy plan annually, make sure you’re accounting for any newly acquired assets (houses, cars, pets, etc.) while checking that your designated beneficiaries are still willing and able to assist in the event of your passing.

While you’re daydreaming of book reading, beach going and backyard barbecuing this summer, don’t forget to do yourself a favor and squeeze in some financial assessing as well.

Performing your own financial checkup annually gives you time to prepare for tax season, budget for the upcoming holiday season and acquire peace of mind knowing your family’s finances are aligned with your future goals and current needs.

Tom Breiter is the president of Integra Capital Advisors, a registered investment adviser. He can be reached at 941-778-1900 or by e-mail at tom@integracapitaladvisors.com.

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