Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review your 2010 Year-End Financials

Tip #281 - Review your 2010 Year-End Financials. As I always recommend every quarter or at least semi-annually, review your financial status. If you keep track of your savings, loans on financial software such as Quicken or Mint.com, it could be as easy as running some final numbers. Or if you keep things on paper, it might mean calling up your bank and other investment companies and getting your balance on each of your accounts and tallying them up. However you keep track of your finances, it is a good idea to write down a data point of your balances twice or four times per year. Year-end is an especially good time to check out your status.

By reviewing your finances at year-end, you can check on whether or not you reached the goals you set at the beginning of the year. If you had hoped to have $8000 in your 401(k) account by year-end, then it's easy enough to check your balance to see if you met that goal. If you set a goal of paying down your car loan to $6000 then you can compare it to the amount you owe on December 31.

Your goals should hopefully pretty much match up with your final balances. If they did not, you need to analyze why they did not. Did you hope to have $20000 in a home downpayment account but instead only had $16000? Figure out what went wrong. Was it the stock market that tanked rather than you not saving enough? Well, then analyze whether your down payment money should really be in the stock market. Did you simply not put enough money away? Why not? Did the money instead go to frivolous things such as cute but unneeded shoes or quick, fast-food lunches for the kids?

After analyzing where you may have fallen short you will then have the information you need to set a realistic budget for next year or to adjust your goals. For example, you may decide you will slow down the rate at which you are saving for a downpayment on a house or you may resolve to cut out impulse buys.

Whether you find out you are meeting your goals perfectly or that there is more work to be done, it is important to get an accurate gauge of your financial picture. It will be the first step to completing your budget and goals for next year.

In Real Life (IRL) - At year end, I actually get excited to see if we made the progress that we had hoped to make. Sometimes when the market is doing very poorly, the news doesn't look so great. Or when we have large emergency replace-the-furnace-type bills. But other times, I am happy to see the progress we are making.

We actually just returned from our annual visit with my parents and my husband's mother in Florida. So we still haven't reviewed our year-end financial picture. It will come as soon as the five suitcases are unpacked and the house is in order. But I have glanced at the numbers and we seem to be on track with what our goals were from the beginning of the year. One big goal was paying off our mortgage on the condo in Florida (where my mother-in-law lives). We achieved that one even earlier than we anticipated. And this freed up money to put toward our other goals. We met our children's college fund goals and our retirement goals as well.

One big goal that we didn't achieve was having me get a part-time job or increase significantly the amount I was making selling on eBay. I have a bunch of financial goals floating around in my head for 2011 as well as many upcoming expenses that I discussed in my last post. With these in mind, we will be writing out our formal budget and 2011 goals later this week. And I will come up with our exact financial figures from 2010 once I attack our mounds of laundry.

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