Your mid-year financial check list
It's almost the middle of June ... do you know where your money is?
We are now officially (almost) halfway through 2013. Crazy, we know. About halfway through a new year is a good time to take a second to take stock of what's happening with your finances. Are you on track to meet all of those money goals you set for yourself back when 2013 was fresh and exciting?
The following five benchmarks should give you a good idea of where you stand, financially, right now. Consider putting these on your check-in list today:
1. Have you started saving for the holidays?
Right now the holidays probably feel like a long ways away -- but just think of how fast these first six months have flown. If you haven't already, now would be a good time to start socking away a little extra cash each paycheck for those right-around-the-corner December expenses. Try pulling up your bills from last year and taking stock of how much you spent. Divide that number by six, and try to put that amount away each month into a savings account marked specifically for holiday spending. This is a great way to help avoid sticker shock when November rolls around and you have no cushion for all those gifts you have to buy.
2. Are you maximizing your Roth IRA?
First of all, if you have a Roth IRA at all, good for you! Now is a good time to see how much you've contributed to the retirement account this year, if at all, and figure out a plan to max it out by the end of the year. The limit for 2013 on these types of accounts if $5,500. If you haven't started saving at all, divide up the rest of the year into monthly payments so you can get the most out of it.
3. Do you have 6-8 months of savings in an emergency account?
Experts disagree on exactly how much you should have in an emergency account (some say three months, some say six and others suggest up to a year). Of course the answer is -- the more you have, the better. Starting out with six months is probably your best bet in the case of a job loss or some big emergency medical bill. Set a goal for how much you'd like to have by the end of the year, and set up an automatic money transfer from your checking to your emergency account right now for each month. If you don't have to actually think about putting that money into savings, you'll be less likely to spend it elsewhere instead.
If, on the other hand, you do have a suitable amount in your emergency savings, divert the money you were putting into that account each month into your retirement account, instead. Hey, you were already saving the money, so you won't miss it anyway, right?
4. Is your debt repayment on track?
Paying down your debt is one of the best things you can do for your finances, since the interest you're paying on any debt you're holding onto is lost money. If you haven't already, use an online tool like Learnvest's Money Center to help track your spending and link your accounts. This will enable you to figure out a debt repayment plan that you can afford each month. Trust us -- seeing that debt go down will be one of the best things you can do for yourself this year.
5. Are you using all your memberships?
Now might also be a good time to check in on all those memberships you may have (optimistically) signed up for at the beginning of the year. For example -- when was the last time you were at the gym? If you aren't using that membership, maybe you could cut the cord there and instead try running outside. What about your cable? Have you found that you've been streaming videos more frequently, or maybe now that they weather's nicer you're never home anyway? If you can get rid of even one membership you are no longer using, you might be able to free up some cash to put towards other goals you want to keep throughout the year.
Just remember: Saving for retirement, paying down debt, building up an emergency cushion -- these things are all marathons, not sprints. Don't feel guilty if you've fallen behind in a few of your financial goals from the beginning of the year ... that's what the mid-year check is all about! There's still plenty of time to get back on track and ring in the next New Year on stable financial ground.Cheryl Lock is a personal finance writer at and former editor at
LearnVest and Parents magazine. When she's not writing, she enjoys
travel, which she blogs about at wearywanderer.wordpress.com.