Each item on this list was discussed in detail in Your Financial Checkup. Feel free to print it out and check off the items as you complete them.
- Diagnose Your Spending Habits
___ Using a spreadsheet and your bank account and credit card statements, record and analyze your expenses from the last three to six months. This is time-consuming but not difficult. You need to find out where your money goes before you can improve your financial health.
___ Keep receipts for all cash purchases. Put them in a jar and calculate the total at the end of the month.
___ Find out how much you could add to your retirement by curbing expenses today.
___ Establish a budget and a means of tracking it.
- Regulate Your Retirement
___ Make sure you're saving enough to meet your retirement goals.
___ Make any "catch-up" contributions to your 401(k) before December 31. The deadline for year 2001 contributions to IRAs is not until April 15, 2002, but the sooner you invest, the better.
___ Find out which type of IRA, Regular or Roth IRA, is best for you.
- Inspect Your Insurance
___ Determining whether you have enough life insurance to take care of your family.
___ Find out if your employer provides disability insurance, and then analyze whether it's enough.
___ If your car is three or more years old, increase the deductible on the collision and comprehensive coverage to $500 or $1000 to obtain a lower premium on your car insurance.
- Investigate Your Debt
___ If the balance on your credit card is large enough that you cannot pay it off at the end of the month, make eliminating that debt your top financial priority.
___ Check your credit history by order a report from Experian, Equifax, or Trans Union. Or, you could order a report from all three in one easy step at TrueCredit.com.
- Evaluate Your Bank
___ Add up your ATM charges to see how much that convenience has cost you over the past year.
___ Determine whether you're getting the most bank for your buck.
- Explore Your Investments
___ Evaluate your portfolio's performance by matching it against the performance of the benchmark of your choice.
___ Compare the fees and features of several discount brokers to determine which one is best for you.
- Take On Your Taxes
___ Run a preliminary income tax return to see if additional deductions might reduce your tax bill.
___ Investigate how you can make the new tax laws work for you.
___ Don't forget to deduct any capital losses that can be carried forward from last year.
Congratulations! If you've concluded this checklist, give yourself a clean bill of financial health (and give yourself a helping of your favorite dessert -- you deserve it)!