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We all have big dreams—maybe it’s a first house, a comfortable retirement, or the trip of a lifetime. But does your salary match the size of your goals? An annual financial check-up is a great way to learn if you can achieve what you want with the salary and investments you currently have.
Fall is the ideal time to fine-tune your finances, because it gives you a chance to take advantage of tax-saving strategies before the year’s end. And with open enrollments happening now, it also allows you to change your health plan or retirement savings contribution if it makes sense for you.
Sitting down and crunching the numbers might feel like a hassle, but consider this: You probably schedule an annual wellness exam and car tune-up each year. Your finances deserve the same attention, and we’ve got seven simple steps to help you get started.
First things first—make a list of your short-term and long-term financial goals, then set some milestones for achieving them. Having a clear road map will help your monitor your progress and determine if you need to change course.
It’s hard to get ahead when too much of your income is going towards interest payments on credit cards or a mortgage. If you’re struggling to keep track of multiple bills, you might consider consolidating your debt, or refinancing your house. Depending on your circumstances, this could save you a significant amount of money in the long run—and that’s money that can be put towards reaching your financial goals.
If you’re consistently putting expenses on credit, or carrying a balance on a credit card, now’s a good time to look for ways to reduce your spending and set a timeline for paying off those debts. Interest charges on credit card debt can add up fast. Making some short-term sacrifices to pay off those debts will bring you that much closer to your financial goals.
If you haven’t made a budget yet, create a detailed list of your income and expenditures, then plan to save any discretionary cash that’s left over. If you already have a budget in place, check to see how well you’re sticking to it and adjust your spending habits if necessary. This is a good time to have the wants vs. needs talk with yourself—a year of lattes adds up quickly!
When’s the last time you checked your credit report? If you’re like most people, chances are it’s been a while. Take a few minutes to review your credit score and see if there are any issues that need to be addressed. The sooner you fix them, the better your chance of getting a loan for that sailboat/cabin/Himalayan trek you’ve been dreaming about.
Federal law gives you the right to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months. There are three major nationwide consumer reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—and each one produces its own report. Go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call them toll free at 1-877-322-8228 to order your free credit report from each agency.
Open enrollment for health insurance and other employee benefits usually happens during the fall or early winter months. Give yourself plenty of time to gather information and review your options to find a plan that meets both your health and financial needs. If you have a 401(k) plan, make every effort to max out your contribution limit. Not only is this a great way to grow your nest egg, it also lowers your taxable income to deliver significant savings at tax time.
Has it been a while since you received a bump in salary? It could be worth doing a little research to see if your compensation is comparable to similar jobs in your area or industry. It’s also a good idea to maintain a list of your accomplishments throughout the year so you’ll have a strong case when negotiating a higher salary. If your supervisor isn’t willing to give you a raise, it could be time to find another job that recognizes your value.
How you save is just as important as what you’re saving for. Umpqua offers several savings and money market accounts designed to help you lock in better earning potential. You can also automate your savings by having money moved to your savings account either through direct deposit or by setting up a recurring transfer. The idea is that if the money never touches your hand, you won’t miss it—and you may be surprised at how fast it can grow.
At Umpqua, we’re big fans of big dreams—and we’re here to help you realize yours. Sign up for a savings account today, or feel free to stop by your local Umpqua store, where we’ll help you choose one that’s just right for your financial goals.