The first half of the year is in the books, and domestics stocks have done well. But things are pretty mixed and some of the hot tips of the past, most notably gold futures and Apple shares, have had a dismal six months. Bonds have also been slammed. The right financial plan can help you stay cool as markets overheat.
Here are five smart financial planning tasks that you might consider putting on your to-do list for the last half of 2013:
Review your 401(k) account
With the gyrations in the markets, not only this year but over the past few years, is the allocation of your investments in line with your objectives? Has market volatility knocked your financial assets out of balance? Are you on track to take the maximum contribution allowed from your salary by the end of 2013? If not, are you in a position to increase the percentage you put aside in your workplace savings plan?
Start and fund a self-employed retirement plan
One of the tough parts of self-employment is the need to manage your own retirement savings plan. If you haven't done so already, make plans to start and fund a retirement plan for yourself. Self-employment can mean a lot of hard work and multi-tasking, but retirement needs to be a priority, too. You work too hard to neglect your own retirement needs. Alternatives include a SEP-IRA and a Solo 401(k), among others. You will want to make sure that you are aware of the deadlines to establish and fund each type of plan. In coming to an informed decision, you might want to consult with a financial adviser for advice on the best plan for your situation.
Review your progress against your financial planning goals
Mid-year is always a good point to gauge where you are in saving to meet important financial goals such as college and retirement. Considering the market's ups and downs in 2013, you don't want this opportunity to measure your progress. If you don't have a financial plan in place, or if yours is out of date, you might want to engage the services of a qualified financial adviser. Fee-only advisers analyze and help you with your plans without taking over the account.
Make sure that your estate planning is updated
At the very least, make sure that your beneficiary designations on assets such as individual retirement accounts, retirement plans, annuities, insurance policies and the like are up to date and reflect your wishes. If you have minor children, you need a will that includes written preferences for a legal guardian for the kids in the event of your death and the death of your spouse. This is vital. It's probably worth the money to get it done, and without delay. If you have a business, for example, what happens in the event of your death or disability? Do you have a succession plan and a funding vehicle for any partners to buy out your interest?
Review all your investment accounts as a consolidate portfolio
Far too many folks look at their 401(k) account or their IRA in a vacuum but never review all these accounts as a consolidated portfolio. Doing so helps avoid over- or under-allocation to one investment style or another. Often, I've seen clients discover they own essentially the same fund in multiple accounts when this was not their intention. While you are doing this, you might consider consolidating accounts and holdings where feasible to make your life easier. Do you have multiple IRAs? Several old 401(k)s? If so, why? Certainly there are other financial planning tasks that may require your attention, but those listed above are basic and timeless. They are also vitally important, especially when the markets have been volatile.
Roger Wohlner, CFP®, is a fee-only financial adviser at Asset Strategy Consultants based in Arlington Heights, Ill., where he provides financial planning and investment advice to individual clients, 401(k) plan sponsors and participants, foundations, and endowments. Roger is active on both Twitter (@rwohlner) and LinkedIn. Check out Roger's popular blog The Chicago Financial Planner where he writes about issues concerning financial planning, investments, and retirement plans.
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