It’s that time of year to do an end-of-year review of your finances. A year-end financial checklist is a great tool for understanding your financial position. Having a financial checklist allows you to check your financial progress and develop a mechanism to achieve your financial goals.
An end-of-year financial checklist can help track your financial health in the short term. It helps check which goals you were able to accomplish during the year while serving as the basis to make new goals for the next year.
A yearly financial review is a critical practice to look at the past 12 months and measure your financial discipline. It’s equally as essential to determining what financial milestones you want to reach in the next year.
What is a year-end financial checklist?
An end-of-year financial checklist is a written set of goals or financial obligations. An annual financial checklist helps you keep in mind your financial goals and responsibilities that must be taken care of during the year. It keeps seasonal financial obligations, such as taxes and important events, top of mind. It encourages you to plan ahead for expenses you’d want to save for such as a vacation, a wedding, an upcoming baby, a home down payment, or a new car.
Before we dive into the end-of-year financial checklist, here is how you can keep your finances in check quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily.
Daily financial checklist
Checking your mailbox or electronic inbox on a daily basis for any financial statements, bills or other important notices is a must. This will make you aware of anything that you may need to address immediately. It can be tempting to just ignore what you already know is coming, but opening your mail or email as soon as you receive it, may prevent a small inconvenience from turning into a huge and expensive problem down the road.
Keeping daily tabs on your spending is important but doesn’t have to be onerous. A quick glance at your debit and credit card transactions will also alert you to any fraudulent or incorrect charges.
You can check your daily spending by looking at your debit or credit card transactions for the day. Ask yourself:
- Was it impulsive or intentional spending?
- Do you regret spending money?
- What steps can you take to reduce or stop impulse purchases?
- What will you do differently next time?
We are bombarded with ads every day by businesses attempting to steal from our financial future. Staying on top of our purchases and spending decisions is necessary to avoid impulsive shopping. Asking these simple questions at the time of purchase or the end of each day can minimize the myriad of impulsive useless purchases that are lying in our closets and around the house. It’s an easy way to stay intentional and focus on the things most important to you.
While an end-of-year financial checklist will serve as a reminder of those once a year tasks, don’t forego the daily habits that impact and shape the life we are designing today.
Weekly financial to-dos
Occasionally, you might go out with friends and spend $150 on Sunday brunch, but during the rest of the week, you only spend $50. Weekly spend fluctuates and unexpected expenses can occur. What happens on a week-to-week basis can vary in a month. Nonetheless you want to ensure you always have some extra cash in case an unexpected bill pops up or your friends call you to have dinner. It’s important to review and update your weekly spending plan regularly and make adjustments so your entire month doesn’t get unmanageable.
A simple way to do this is to divide your expenses for the week into non-discretionary expenses (that are a must) and discretionary (those non-essential wants). You can then choose to spend on discretionary expenses such as movies, and subscriptions during the week after you have paid the non-discretionary expenses such as bills and rent.
At the end of each month take inventory of what’s already happened. Although it’s good to look in the rear view mirror, I’d argue it’s even more important to plan for the month to ahead.
Before the beginning of a new month, create a spending plan for the month and use it as a guide. This plan will help you ensure that you pay your bills on time and use your money efficiently. Look at the previous month’s budget to find areas where you can cut spending. I’d offer that thinking of new and creative ways to earn money is also an option.
At least once a month check your debit and credit card transactions. Most banks allow you to do this easily online but you can also wait for your monthly statement. Each month, review your bank and credit card statements. You’ll want to reconcile accounts by comparing your deposits and withdrawals on the bank statements. Take a look at how much you’ve paid to a credit card vs. how much you’ve spent on it.
Reviewing you statements is also crucial if you are running your own business as it will help you detect fraud and mistakes. Reconciling accounts can also help you track receivables and ensure that the accounts are in good standing.
Quarterly Financial Assessment
Once every quarter you must review your retirement contributions and test out increasing them by 1%. If your salary goes up or you start saving more, increasing your retirement contributions will help make significant progress in reaching your early retirement goals. The 1% increase every quarter looks like a small change, but it can make a huge difference. Imagine your retirement contributions increasing from 3% ot 12% in just two years. This is a small but impactful way to reach financial independence sooner. Imagine being work-optional in your 50s or even 40s!
Review your short-term goals according to your changing financial situation and lifestyle needs. You can choose to stick to original plan or you may want to update your goals.
If you want to save more money, adjust the plan by reducing spending on memberships, subscriptions, and unnecessary purchases. Make a list of your best and worst purchases. Making a list will help you understand where your hard-earned money went and how you can be more intentional when spending money.
OHIO – Only handle it once
While there may be some things you’ll need to do regularly, some things on your financial checklist only need to be done once. They can take the most time and might require some expertise but are equally as important. Here are a few tasks worth tackling.
Create an estate plan
An estate plan decides who will own your possessions, how taxes and debts will be paid off, and who will get custody of your children in the event of your death. Having an estate plan is crucial. Not having one would undeniably mean that the courts will decide who keeps your possessions and gets custody of your children when you pass away. If you don’t have an estate plan, hire an estate attorney as soon as you can.
Similarly, establish an “In Case of Emergency Binder.” An emergency binder includes all your important documents. The purpose of an emergency binder is to simply collect all the valuable information and documents quickly in case of an emergency such as a natural disaster or house fire. It’s also a place for your loved ones to have all of the information they might need in case you are incapcitated.
You can use a binder, portfolio, briefcase, or safe box to hold important original documents such as passports, social security cards, checkbooks, tax receipts, and birth certificates along with cash and other valuables that you might keep in your home.
Social Security Administration
An account on SSA.gov gives you insight into the history of your salary. Reviewing your lifetime earnings can give you perspective on your savings rate. It also allows you to review for errors and change details such as your address, directly from your account. You can also estimate the benefits you may be entitled to.
While many of the items in the “Only Handle it Once” section may only need to be created once, it’s important to review and update when there are significant changes such as a marriage or divorce, birth of a child, establishing of a new business, death of a family member and receiving an inheritance.
Yearly financial goals
An end-of-year financial checklist can serve as a reminder of some most basic financial concepts and also the complicated financial responsibilities we’d rather not think about.
Have an emergency fund
An emergency fund must be set up before you begin investing money to help you pay for large, unexpected expenses such as an unforeseen illness or loss of income. Having an emergency fund will also help get you out of the earn-save-spend cycle. Generally, experts suggest that an emergency fund should be half a year’s worth of expenses. Don’t be discouraged by that number, focus on the most essential expenses like keep a roof over your head, the lights on and food on the table. Start of with just one month worth of the most essential expenses. Think about setting aside any bonus, tax refunds or side hustle money aside for this specific purpose.
It can be tempting to want to pay off high interest debt as soon as possible, and you should, but having a small cushion is going to provide a safety net and peace of mind. If the 3-6 months’ worth of expenses amount is too huge for you, start small and keep setting aside money each month, until you reach your goal.
Set financial milestones
Setting short-term financial milestones can help in focusing on what you can do now. It can feel overwhelming to think about saving your first $10,000 or even $1,000. Instead, think about a simple way to save $10 today or $100 this week.
Take your big financial goals and break them up into weekly, monthly and quarterly goals. Don’t forget to celebrate your milestones along the way. You saved your first $500 ever? Celebrate! Invested your first $100? Celebrate!
In the same way you are taking your big intentions into smaller manageable pieces. I recommend breaking down your goals into categories of short-term, mid-term, and long-term.
Your short-term (1 year) financial goals can include:
- Establishing your emergency fund
- Paying off the debt with the highest interest
- Eliminating the debt with the lowest balance
- Buying a car or upgrading your car
- Creating a holiday spending fund
- Investing in stocks and bonds
- Lower your food bill by cooking at home
- Set up an automatic savings account
- Saving for an annual vacation
Your mid-term financial goals (3 years) might include:
- Purchasing a house
- Buying or replacing your vehicle
- Planning an paying for a wedding
- Having a baby
- Starting your own business
- Starting a side hustle
- Paying for home renovations
Long-term goals of (7 years or more) might include:
- Paying for a child’s college education
- Becoming a millionaire
- Living in a mortgage-free home
We are unique in our goals, lifestyle, financial circumstances, and time horizon. But with mindfulness, a clear plan and financial discipline we can reach the financial milestones and goals.
Your money, your goals
Writing down your goals and plans to achieve them is crucial so that you can always assess your financial progress. Keeping an end-of-year financial checklist ensures that even if you don’t want to work on a goal right now, you haven’t forgotten about it. I encourage my financial coaching clients to create a vision board as a physical and visual reminder of the life they are designing.
Additionally, an annual checklist helps you prepare for those not-so-fun financial obligations such as debt repayment, and tax payment on time.
If you are wanting to mortgage a house or buy a car in a year, your financial checklist might also include improving your credit score. Improving your credit score will help you get a low-interest rate and better payment options. You can work with a financial coach or financial planner to assess your financial situation correctly and adjust financial goals.
Annual financial checklist
An end-of-year financial checklist is just the tool to help you keep your financial matters in order. There are some things you can do infrequently but my recommendation is to check these off your list at least once a year.
- Review insurance: Health, Home, Life, Vehicle, etc.
- Review service charges/ contracts: Cable, Cell Phone
- Create new financial goals
- Review credit report
- File taxes
- Review employee benefits
- Update your net worth statement
- Review beneficiaries on all financial accounts
- Plan for big-ticket needs or purchases
- Shred documents you no longer need.
- Evaluate your emergency savings
- Update your priority list
- Update your vision board
- Review your “why” statement
Benefits of having an annual financial checklist
Having an end-of-year financial checklist helps you have a plan for the money that flows in and out of your financial accounts. It helps you identify the purchases that you regret and purchases that you are proud of. It can help you minimize mindless shopping and focus on intentional spending, allowing you to focus on spending money on things that you won’t regret in the long term.
Taking control of your finances can be overwhelming when you have a myriad of financial responsibilities. Making a financial checklist helps you break down your financial tasks for each month so that you can focus on a couple of tasks at a time.