Stressed About Money? Use This Financial Checklist
A recent Harris Poll conducted for the American Institute of CPAs revealed that 74 percent of Americans believe they are worse off or about the same financially as they were a year ago, but that their stress levels have not increased since last year. In other words, people seem to have accepted that financial hardship is a fact of life, although I’m not so sure I’m cool with that. Are you? I don’t think you should stress about money, but I do think there are things you can do to make your situation better.
Here is a list of questions from the AICPA to ask yourself about your current spending. Use this as a financial checklist as you work on your own money plan:
Do you have a clear picture of your financial objectives and what how you need to save to achieve your goals? Start by making a list of your life goals, then take some time to research the costs of each.
Have you determined a reasonable savings rate for the achievement of your financial goals? Once you know what your goals will cost, figure out how much you have to save each month to achieve them. If you’re unable to save that amount, you either need to extend the time horizon to achievement of your goals or reassess your spending.
Have you come to an agreement with your significant other so that you are both comfortable with this rate? Even if you and your sweetheart keep separate accounts, you should both be on the same page about your goals and how you’ll get there.
Do you have 3 to 6 months of cash to cover expenses if you were to lose your job or another unexpected event occurred? This is called your Emergency Fund and it is the foundation of financial security.
Do you know how much you spend each month? If not, it’s worth it to analyze – you’ll be surprised at how those little expenditures add up.
Have you eliminated non-deductible debt to the extent possible? The second criteria of financial security is debt-free – if you have credit card debt that you’re carrying, put a plan in place to pay it off ASAP.
Have you reviewed interest rates on debts and taken steps to reduce them, if applicable? This will help you to pay the debt off faster. Just pick up the phone, call the credit card company, remind them that you’re a stellar card holder who always pays on time (because you do, right?), and ask if they’ll lower your rate. It usually works if you’ve had the card for a while.
Do you know your credit score and have you taken reasonable steps to keep it high? 720 and above is where you want to be. Make sure you know what affects your credit and what doesn’t.
Do you check your credit report regularly to make sure your identity has not been compromised? You can get your free credit report on a yearly basis at www.annualcreditreport.com. There are three reports available, one from each credit reporting agency, so consider checking one of them every four months.
Take the time to address these questions – it’s amazing how taking control of your financial situation makes you automatically feel better about money. Remember, it all adds up, so take it one thing at a time and just start!