July marks the halfway point in your year — do you know where your money stands?
For most of us, the answer is a little more complicated than a simple "yes" or "no." For example, maybe you know how much you have in our checking account (a great start!), but you don't know where your net worth stands (not so great). With the year more than half over, it’s definitely time to step back and take stock of what has happened over the past six months.
How are those New Year’s resolutions holding up? Are you on track with the timelines of the personal goals you set for yourself? And perhaps the most logistically important of the bunch, how are you doing financially? Are you working with your money the way you need to be this year, and is it working for you in return? If your answer to this is anywhere in the neighborhood of “Wow, I have no idea…” then you’ve come to the right place.
It is so important to take some time mid-year to look back and assess what’s been going on in your life, financially — both good and bad. To help you figure out exactly what you should be looking at during this mid-year financial check-up, NBC News BETTER spoke with Lauren Zangardi Haynes, a financial planning and investment advisory firm owner and financial blogger, about the most important steps you need to be taking during this time to make the most out of your mid-year review, and get yourself on track for the remainder of 2018.
Look over January through June at a glance
You want to be able to look over the big picture of the last six months and get a feel for how things have been going, and how you can move forward.
“For mid-year check-ins, I suggest clients first revisit their goals — dare we say it, New Year's Resolutions,” says Haynes. “Though we might feel silly making New Year's Resolutions, often those are closely held goals and they are worth revisiting. If you haven't achieved them, what's holding you back? Time? Focus? It may be time to hire someone to help you turn your plans into action and hold you accountable.”
It is common (and more than OK!) to not be exactly where you thought you’d be when you set your financial intention for the year back in January — life happens, emergencies come up, and things get in the way. The important part is that you’re assessing the missteps and adjusting your goals by creating an achievable, actionable plan to move forward in reaching them. Be honest with yourself here about what is and isn’t working, and what you need to do to improve starting now.
When you start thinking about how much money the wasted time is costing you, you’ll be more likely to do what needs to be done — however difficult — to get back on track towards your goals.
Reassess (or create!) your budget
It’s also important to reassess your budget and see what is working (and perhaps more importantly, what isn’t working). Budgets only work if they actually apply to your current financial situation. So, if anything about your income or spending has changed over the last six months (and I’m willing to bet it has in one way or another), your budget needs to change to fit it.
As of 2016, only 41 percent of Americans use a budget.
The health of your financial life is only as accurate as the budget you’re living by day-to-day. If you’re off track on your journey towards your financial goals so far this year, it isn’t too late to steer yourself in the right direction. The first step might be as simple as opening up Excel and starting a budget spreadsheet.
Assess your net worth
This is a big one, and although it feels like it is reserved for people with tons of investments and much “bigger money” than you have, it still applies to you.
“Net worth equals total assets minus liabilities,” says Haynes. “In other words, what you own minus what you owe. Be sure you are clear on what is actually an asset. Things that lose money over time could be considered expenses, not assets. Yes, I'm talking about that luxury car.”
You have to know where you stand before you figure out how to move forward. Luckily, there are simple and accessible ways to check your net worth with little effort, like online calculators, to keep it easy enough to get done.
Net worth equals total assets minus liabilities. In other words, what you own minus what you owe.
Check your credit report and create a plan of action
It may seem unnecessary to obsess over your credit score, especially because it can often fluctuate so much. But it is definitely important to check your actual credit report, and mid-year is the perfect time to do so. “The formula used to calculate your credit score is a formula made up by credit agencies,” Haynes weighed in. “What you really need to focus on is your actual credit report. You can check that for free once a year at annualcreditreport.com (beware of look-alike sites). Look for anything amiss — late payments, fraudulent accounts or other mistakes. Control what you can control, make sure your credit report is accurate, pay your bills on time, don't carry high levels of revolving debt.”
If your credit is lower than you like, it isn’t the end of the world for you — there are ways to rehabilitate your credit and bounce back, even if you’ve made mistakes that feel irreparable. The key is starting sooner rather than later, so your mid-year financial check in is the perfect place to get started on this, especially if you want to start seeing results by next year.
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