Time flies. The hot summer months are over and there are only a few months left in this year. For me, early autumn is the best time of the year. The changing of leaves, the colorful local markets, the apple picking, and the comfort food.
Also, fall is a perfect time to take an inventory of finances and retirement planning goals. After spending money on summer travels and activities it is good to see what lies ahead and prepare for the following months.
Having a fall financial checklist will help you review your retirement savings, prepare your home and car for winter, get your investment portfolio in shape, and make the most of your money from the holiday season to your financial decisions.
While there are many more financial tasks to tackle, this list of 11 tips is a great way to start the final months of this year.
Here is my fall financial checklist with 11 helpful tips to improve your finances and get your home ready for winter.
1. Bump up your savings – Fall is a perfect time to look at your savings and emergency fund. It is never a bad idea to save more. If you depleted your savings, now is a good time to think about how to save more. Even $100 extra dollars a month ($1,200 a year) can make a big impact.
2. Look at your emergency fund – A solid emergency fund is helpful when financial troubles come your way. Most financial planners recommend having three to six’s months’ worth of living expenses to be tucked away.
The past two years of a global pandemic were hard on most of us. And if you have depleted your emergency fund, make it a financial goal to re-build it by the end of the year. One of the best things you can do is to make sure you have an emergency fund.
3. Check remaining FSA money – If your flexible spending account will expire by the end of this year, make sure you use it. Also, check FSA policies on how much money you can carry over to next year.
4. Review your retirement savings plan – Saving money in retirement accounts such as 401(k), IRA, Roth 401(k), and Roth IRA is smart way to enjoy some tax advantages and save for retirement.
But do you know if you are on track to meet your financial goals? Look at your retirement savings and see what can be done to save more. If your employment status has changed from employed to self-employed do not forget to enroll in self-employed retirement accounts SEP-IRA and maximize your contributions if you can.
Also, if you have recently changed the employer, decide if you want to roll over any old 401(k) funds from a previous employer to a new one. Additionally, try to increase your annual contribution to retirement accounts. Even a one percent increase every year will help you save more by the time you are retired.
5. Review your investments – Look at your investment portfolio. Things change all the time in the finance world. And it was no different in the last 12 months when the stock market was shifting during the global pandemic.
It is important to look at your portfolio and review where your investments are. Hence, fall is the best time to look at your investment portfolio and evaluate it. If you are 5 to 7 years away from retirement, make sure that you are not carrying too much risk or wasting your money on investments that are not generating a decent rate of return.
Also, make sure that your current portfolio meets your investment goals. If the market caused a shift in your portfolio, it needs to be corrected to maintain the diversification you originally planned.
6. Look at your company work benefits – During the fall many companies (including mine) send out enrollment information for the coming year’s benefits. Most companies’ work benefits start on January 1. Make sure you take some time to go through your current documents and understand any changes.
I always check the changes for my company benefits like FSA, 401(k), Roth 401(k), and health insurance. Keep in mind that even though your benefit choices worked for you this year, it does not mean they will next year. You can increase your contributions to retirement accounts and increase or reduce FSA funds. Finally, do not forget to submit the paperwork for a company-sponsored gym membership if it expires by the end of the year.
Moreover, you have to make sure that you have signed up for the proper health insurance plan for you and your family. Your health may have changed over the last year or your company will be changing the health insurance providers. It is important to keep an eye on these changes because you do not want to miss out on valuable insurance benefits.
7. Look at your retirement goals – If you are close to retirement, fall is an ideal time to start planning how you and your spouse will time your retirement. You may be already discussing when you should start claiming your hard-earned Social Security Benefits, when and how to enroll in Medicare program, and if you need to buy long-term care or life insurance.
8. Budget for the holiday season – The holiday season can be expensive with Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year holidays coming up. We are not surprised anymore that many stores started putting up their Christmas displays in October. That is why fall is a perfect time to start budgeting for holiday spending.
If you start early and prepare your holiday budget ahead of time, it will help you save a lot of money by controlling your spending. Make a list of all your projected holiday expenses and start saving towards your goal. How much do you plan on spending on costumes, gifts, travel, activities, and entertainment? Putting aside even $50 or $100 each week will help you prepare for holiday spending.
Additionally, keep an eye for online sales and specials so you can get your gifts at more affordable prices. And if you are a creative person, start working on DIY gifts.
9. Prepare your home for winter – Fall is a perfect time to prepare your home for winter. You can cut down on future bills knowing that your home is warm and functional during the cold months.
Usually, I like to go through my to-do list for home maintenance:
- Check the boiler and service it if needed.
- Call the cleaning company and sweep the chimney if needed.
- Check the thermostat and readjust the temperature.
- Check windows for drafts and cracks and remove A/C units.
- Check the doors for drafts.
- Clean out gutters after all leaves have fallen.
- Remove the outdoor hose and turn off the water supply.
- Collect fallen leaves, trim overgrown bushes, and plants.
10. Clean up your closet – Fall is a lovely time of the year when we are transitioning from summer to winter and getting ready for short days and cold weather. Also, it is my favorite time of the year to go through my closets.
Typically, I like to pull out all my winter clothes, scarves, gloves, and coats and sort them out. It is easy to sell the items you no longer need or use on sites like Craigslist or eBay. But I prefer to donate my fall and winter clothes that I did not wear last year. Also, I look at my summer stash and decide if I will be wearing it next year. If not, I will donate or toss it. Going through my closets help to see my options for mixing and matching clothes I already have instead of spending money on shopping for new outfits.
11. Get your car ready – Take a few steps to get your car ready before winter comes because with the change in seasons comes changes in driving conditions. We live in Massachusetts, where fall is the time of the year when the temperature drops at night, and we can see an increase in rain and even ice on the roads.
Here are fall car maintenance tips to keep you safe on the road:
- Check and replace wiper blades if needed.
- Check and change fluids in your car.
- Check your car tires.
Also, don’t forget to clean the interior of your car and empty the trunk from the summer beach chairs and umbrellas.
In case you are looking for more fall financial tasks:
- Plan for next year’s summer vacation and start saving money in your travel account.
- Plan for future savings – lower your food bill, cut the cable TV.
- Update your estate plan.
- Check rates to reduce your payment for a home and car insurance.
- Refinance your mortgage.
- Make sure you have a financial and medical power of attorney in place and updated.
What is on your fall financial to-do list? Do you have other fall financial tips to share?
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