This year, I intend to make financial planning a priority by creating a 12-month financial plan, including the following monthly goals.
January - Review retirement plan
I find that January is a good time to review my retirement savings plan for two reasons. First, I have enough information to evaluate what progress I made in the prior year. Second, it is the perfect time to make adjustments to contribution amounts and investment choices so that they will have the maximum impact during the coming year.
February - Prepare taxes
By mid February, I will have the documentation I need to prepare my tax returns for the prior year. One of the benefits of doing this chore as soon as possible includes receiving refunds, if any are due me, sooner.
March - Adjust withholding
With the information from preparing my prior-year tax returns in hand, I plan to do some serious current-year tax planning in March, with a focus on how much is being withheld from my pay. My goal is to adjust withholding, if necessary, so that I get little, if any, refund when I file my tax return (or, alternatively, pay little, if any, taxes). After all, why give the Federal government an interest-free loan.
April - Give auto insurance a tune-up
With driving season ahead, my April financial goal is to review my auto insurance, including deductibles, to be sure that I still have the appropriate coverage and that I'm not paying for coverage I don't need.
May - Assess homeowners' insurance
A natural follow-on to evaluating my auto insurance in April is to take a serious look at my homeowners' insurance in May. My focus will be on ensuring that my coverage is adequate both in amount and covered perils, since I know a standard policy will not cover all risks.
June - Update budget
As the middle of the year approaches, this is the perfect time to take a close look at the budget that I prepared at the beginning of the year and to update it to reflect any changes in circumstances or expenses.
July - Think savings
The month that includes Independence Day is the right time to take a serious look at one of the pillars of long-term financial independence, savings, with a focus on being sure that my current savings rate is adequate to achieve my long-term goals and that my emergency savings fund is in good shape.
August - Evaluate job skills
Back-to-school season is around the corner, so it makes sense to evaluate my work skills in August to be sure that they are up to date and to consider continuing education options if they need to be refreshed.
September - Winterize home
Fall is the ideal time to do an energy audit at home and to identify ways I can cut energy costs in the coming winter, such as improving insulation or replacing an outdated thermostat.
October - Budget for the holidays
Even though the beginning of the holiday season is more than a month away, budgeting for it well ahead of time makes it easier for me to make rational decisions about how much to spend and how to pay for it.
November - Maximize open enrollment benefits
Although the path of least resistance is to stick with my previous benefits choice during open enrollment period, I have found that taking the time to review my options can often pay off in lower costs, tax savings, or more appropriate choices.
December - Use flexible spending dollars
Since flexible spending accounts are a use-it-or-lose-it proposition, December is when I look hard at how much is left in my account and how I can most productively use these funds before my plan's deadline.
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