Spending

  • September Financial Resolutions

    As summer fades into the distance, September brings with it a sense of renewal and rejuvenation. For many, it’s a time to refocus on their goals, much like the beginning of the year in January. With the start of school families get back into routines which helps people get organized and set goals.

    While you may have set resolutions in January, the start of the year is a tough time to follow through on them because of post-holiday exhaustion, and the temptation make a big change all at once. September represents a clean slate and offers a unique opportunity to revisit and reevaluate your financial progress.

    Here are seven things you can do this September to give your finances a mid-year boost and set yourself up for success through the rest of the year.

    1. Review Your Financial Goals:

    Begin by revisiting the financial goals you set at the beginning of the year. Take a close look at your short-term and long-term objectives. Are they still relevant? Have your circumstances changed? Use this time to adjust and fine-tune your goals to align better with your current situation and aspirations.

    2. Assess Your Budget:

    A budget is your financial roadmap, and September is an ideal time to check if you’re staying on course. Review your income, expenses, and savings contributions. Are you overspending in certain areas? Are there areas where you can cut back? Make necessary adjustments to ensure you’re saving enough to meet your goals.

    3. Emergency Fund Check:

    One of the cornerstones of financial security is having an emergency fund. September is a great time to assess the state of your emergency fund. Aim to have at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses saved. If your fund falls short, prioritize saving to reach this critical milestone.

    Almost as important as having the right amount saved is the account you are saving in. If your emergency fund is in your checking account consider moving it to a high-yield savings account. Most big bank checking and savings accounts pay very little interest (close to zero percent). Today’s rates on HYSAs are close to 5% and you can transfer your emergency fund with just a few clicks.

    4. Investment Portfolio Review and Rebalance:

    Take a close look at your investment portfolio. How have your investments performed so far this year? Are they in line with your risk tolerance and long-term objectives? Index funds that track the overall stock market and bond market are the best long-term investments for most investors. Are your investments doing what they’re supposed to?

    Rebalance your portfolio if necessary to ensure it remains diversified and aligned with your financial goals. Rebalancing usually means selling some of your investments that have done well and buying more of those that have not. It’s best to rebalance on a set schedule. Choose to rebalance once per quarter, or once per year and set a reminder to stick to it.  

    5. Review Your Retirement Account Contributions:

    If you’re not maxing out your contributions to retirement accounts like a 401k or an IRA, September is a good time to increase your contributions. The maximum you can contribute to your 401k/403b for 2023 is $22,500, or $30,000 if you’re 50 or older. The max for your traditional or Roth IRA is $6,500, or $7,500 if you’re 50 or older.

    Increasing your contribution by just 1% each year can really add up. If you’ve received a bonus or a pay raise during the year and your paycheck has increased consider making an even bigger contribution.

    Along with your retirement accounts don’t forget about your HSA. These can also be used as stealth retirement accounts, and maxing out the contributions is a great idea. The contribution limits for HSAs in 2023 are $3,850 for singles and $7,750 for families.

    6. Backdoor Roth IRA Contribution

    If you make too much to contribute to a Roth IRA, consider making a backdoor Roth IRA contribution. The income phaseout for Roth contributions starts at $138k for single filers and $218k for MFJ. Most bonuses and raises are paid by September, so at this point you should have a good sense of your income for the year.

    Unlike the direct contribution to your Roth IRA, you only have until December 31st to make a backdoor Roth IRA contribution. Direct contributions to traditional or Roth IRAs are allowed all the way up to tax-day the next year.

    7. Tax Planning:

    It’s never too early to start thinking about taxes, and there are many decisions you can make in September to put yourself in a more favorable position.

    Now is a good time to review your federal income tax withholding. Withhold too little and you could have a hefty tax bill due next year as well as possible fines for underpayment. Withhold too much and you’re essentially providing Uncle Sam with an interest free loan. Don’t worry, it’s easy to adjust your withholding by filing a new W4 form with your HR department.

    Consider making additional 529 plan contributions. In most states contributions to a 529 plan have to be done before year end, while some states allow you to contribute until tax-day the next year. Many 529 plans offer state tax deductions and the investments grow tax-free.

    If your income for the year has been less than normal, perhaps due to switching jobs or taking time off consider making a Roth IRA conversion. Converting funds from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA means paying taxes on the conversion now, but prevents you having to pay taxes on withdrawals later. A year with a lower income and lower tax rate is a good opportunity not to be wasted.

    Wrap Up

    September is indeed a month of fresh beginnings, and it’s a perfect time to revisit your financial resolutions, assess your progress, and make necessary adjustments. By taking these proactive steps, you can set yourself up for financial success in the months and years ahead. Remember that financial planning is an ongoing process, and staying proactive will help you achieve your goals and build a secure financial future.

  • TIPS TO MANAGE HOLIDAY SPENDING

    When the weather starts turning colder and Starbucks rolls out their Pumpkin spice lattes and other festive creations it can only mean one thing. The holiday season is upon us. This time of year can bring a lot of joy and celebration: reuniting with friends and distant family members, partaking in holiday traditions, and the excuse to stuff yourself on all of the delicious food and holiday treats.

    The holidays can also be a stressful time filled with too many trips to the mall or panicked last minute browsing on your favorite retail website trying to find the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Not to mention the hangover in January when the credit card bill comes due, and the cheer of the season has melted away.

    A winning strategy is to plan ahead. Make a list of those you plan to buy for, and include a budget for their gifts. Set a limit on the number and cost of the gifts you plan to buy. This will help you stay within your overall budget and allow you to purchase appropriate gifts for the important people in your life.

    Shopping Strategy

    • Shop early and avoid the “Christmas Eve rush”. Everyone has seen those crazy videos of holiday shoppers mobbing a store at 5am on Black Friday. There’s no need to be quite that early, but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of having your Christmas shopping done well before the week of Christmas. You can relax on the couch with a glass of eggnog and carols on in the background while everyone else is searching for a parking spot at the mall.
    So many people look forward to black friday, that it now shows up as a holiday on my phone’s calendar!
    • Whenever possible, pay by cash or check for your gifts. This will help you to limit any overspending you may be tempted to do and reduce the uggh feeling you get when opening your credit card bills in January.
    • Plan out beforehand as much as possible the gifts you plan to purchase before heading out to do your shopping, or sit down at the computer to do your shopping. This will help you avoid the trap of making an impulse purchase while at the store or site and blowing your budget. 
    • Consider exchanging names among a group of family or friends with a set dollar limit and purchasing a gift for one person.
    • Look to purchase “stocking stuffers” at a discount store all in one trip. This will help you avoid impulse buys.
    • Handmade gifts can be the most special. Use your creativity and talent to give the gift of yourself, it’s often a personal touch that is greatly appreciated.
    • Rather than exchange gifts, consider starting a new holiday tradition with a group outing or event. Often, it’s the experiences together that we look back upon fondly and remember much more than the gifts we’ve received.
    • Minimize the return headache, by keeping all of your receipts in one place and including gift receipts as much as possible.

    Taking an organized approach to holiday shopping can make the experience enjoyable for many reasons. First, you will be getting the most value for your dollar. Second, you will now have the time to really relax and enjoy the holidays, knowing your preparations are complete.