Life Events Are Financial Events

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By Robert Brokamp (TMF Bro)
May 8, 2002

John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans... so make sure you have an emergency fund." (He didn't really say that bit about an emergency fund -- what he actually said was "Paul is such a wanker.")

Yes, folks, life happens -- you get married, you have kids, you get laid off, you drive your car into a tree. And most of life's big events have financial consequences. The best thing you can do to prepare for Fate's fancies is to have three to six months' worth of safe, accessible cash, or cash equivalents, set aside. (Looking for a place to stash your cash? Check out our Short-Term Savings Center.)

But there are other regions of your financial empire that should get some attention. So if you've recently coupled, reproduced, collided, separated, retired, jiggled, or succumbed, here are some areas of your finances that you should re-evaluate.

Review your tax withholding status. Determine if you're having the right amount withheld from your paycheck by your employer. Download Form W-4 (.pdf file) from the IRS website, or use their withholding calculator. If you have too much taken out of your paycheck, you'll lose the use of that money until you get your tax refund. Have too little withheld, and you'll pay a penalty.

Update your will, emergency contacts, and beneficiaries.Your legal papers should keep pace with every addition to and subtraction from your family. You don't want your ex-wife to inherit your house, nor do you want your new bundle of joy to lose her legacy. Besides updating your will, change the beneficiaries you declared on all your retirement accounts and insurance policies.

Re-evaluate insurance needs. Perhaps you need more (because you have added to your brood), maybe you need different kinds (because you've retired and need Medigap), or maybe you can consolidate your policies with the same company to save money. Visit our Insurance Center for more info.

Change flexible spending withholding. Usually, once you decide how much to be withheld for medical or dependant-care flexible spending, you can't change the amount. However, the exception to that rule is in the case of a major life event, such as a birth or job change. If your flex spending needs change, now is the time to contact your benefits specialist.

Look into hair replacement. The one life change we all face is aging, which for many of us means balding. We suggest a Chia Head -- it's earth-friendly, and goes great with most meat dishes.

Robert Brokamp ranks "wanker" as one of the top three most fun words to say (right behind "shilly-shally" and "onomatopoeia"). Per the Fool's disclosure policy, we declare that no Chia Pets were harmed in the writing of this article.