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One Simple Task: Improve Your Financial Wellness in 2024

Happy couple looking at their positive financial results

When’s the last time you focused on your financial wellness? Most everyone has a basic understanding of their financial situation, but when it comes to bettering it, the steps can sometimes seem overwhelming. The path toward financial success doesn’t have to consist of leaps and substantial changes.

Each week of 2024, we’ll share one simple task on our radio show,  Rethink Your Money™, that you can do to improve your finance — and then we’ll add it to this list. By the time 2025 rolls around, you’ll have made 52 small adjustments to improve your financial well-being and be equipped with best practices for the future.

Let’s make 2024 the year of setting the stage for living your best financial life.

June 8

Read a book on personal finance.

Today’s tip is to find and read a book on personal finance. One of my favorites is Morgan Housel’s “The Psychology of Money” (an easy read that’s broken down into small chapters). I’ve yet to meet someone who said they didn’t like this book. Another great option is Creative Planning President Peter Mallouk’s most recent book, “Money, Simplified,” which integrates decades of investing experience and real-life stories with informative visuals.

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June 1

Review where your 401k contributions are being directed.

While people tend to periodically check their 401k plan to see which types of investments they’re invested in or review their performance, they rarely seem to consider where their contributions are being directed (in terms of a traditional vs. Roth account). Before determining how to invest, you’ll first want to answer the very important question of where to invest.

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May 25

Review your autopay subscriptions.

This week’s tip is to review all your autopay subscriptions. Fortunately, you can easily see what you’re subscribed to through your iPhone (Settings –> Apple ID, iCloud+, Media & Purchases –> Subscriptions). The rest you can find by combing through your monthly bank and credit card statements. You may be shocked to see how many of these expenses you can immediately cut out. If you need additional, ongoing help with this task, check out this article from Forbes.

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May 18

Download our free tax guide, 5 Tips to Reduce Portfolio Taxes.

Today’s task is simple: use this link to download our free tax guide. By reading our guide, you can discover ways to potentially keep more of your hard-earned wealth through increased tax efficiency.

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May 11

Audit your portfolio holdings.

An investment portfolio audit helps you understand your portfolio’s current strengths and weaknesses. Life is dynamic, so it’s important that you consistently reevaluate the way you’re invested. If you were to invest all your money from scratch today, would you invest it in the exact same manner that you’re currently positioned?

You want to audit your portfolio holdings for expected return, standard deviation, the range of volatility you can expect, fees and expenses, dividends, and taxation. If this feels overwhelming, sit down with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and ask what they see. The goal is to maximize your return on the funds you’ve worked a lifetime to save.

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May 4

Get your digital assets in order.

Sit down and make a list of all your digital logins and passwords so that if anything happens to you, your loved ones can still access your accounts. Make sure to include financial websites, email, social media, etc. Once your list is complete, give it to someone you trust so that they can act according to your instructions in the event you become incapacitated or unexpectedly pass away.

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April 27

Create a money mindfulness practice for added peace of mind.

Check in with your finances: Set aside a few minutes to check in with your finances on a recurring basis — this can be done quarterly or at whatever interval works best for you.

Practice gratitude: Take a moment to appreciate where you are financially and what you’ve done successfully when it comes to your money.

Be mindful of your spending: Before making a purchase, pause and ask yourself, “Does this align with my values and financial goals?”

Practice non-judgment: Approach your financial situation with curiosity and openness rather than judgment and self-criticism.

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April 20

Confirm your assets are titled correctly and owned by your living trust.

Probate is a lengthy, costly and public process that an estate plan can potentially help you avoid. But even if you’ve already set up your estate plan, which may very well include a revocable trust, the key to success is making sure your assets are titled and owned by the trust — otherwise the trust is worthless.

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April 13

Create a budget that identifies your essential expenses.

Creating a budget that identifies your essential expenses now is a great way to be prepared if an emergency situation arises.

You can do this by going through your last few months’ worth of bank account and credit card statements and categorizing your spending into four categories: fixed (bills you can’t negotiate, like your rent or mortgage), lifestyle (things you need to buy, like groceries, where you have some control over the cost), discretionary (extras you could cut out) and savings (such as contributions to your IRA).

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April 6

Check your account beneficiaries and update them if necessary.

When opening your accounts, you may not have added beneficiary information at that time. And even if you did, your life may be different now. Perhaps you have a new child, you got a divorce, or the person you listed has passed away. Now’s the perfect time to check your life insurance policies and investment accounts to ensure your beneficiary designations are complete, accurate and applicable for today.

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March 30

Decide how you’ll use your tax return refund BEFORE you receive it.

If you’re receiving a tax refund, do you plan to gift it? Save it in an emergency fund? Use it to pay off debt? Put it toward a long-term goal? Spend it on a vacation? Whatever you’re thinking, decide how it’ll be used now — and make sure it’s within the context of your financial plan.

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March 23

Video a walkthrough of your house.

Home inventory videos are a great way to keep track of all your possessions in case of an insurance emergency. When you trigger a homeowner’s claim due to loss from a flood, a fire, theft, etc., a walkthrough video can help you account for what was lost and provide documentation of your claim to the insurance company.

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March 16

Set up dual-factor authentication for all your financial accounts.

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security measure that makes you pass two security tests before gaining access to your account or device. This security measure forces a hacker to have not only your evergreen password but also a limited-time secondary passcode sent to a disassociated email address or cell phone from the source site in order to gain access.

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March 9

Review your Form W-4.

The purpose of filling out a Form W-4 upon hire is so that your employer can withhold the correct federal income tax from your pay. But as your life evolves, your selections may need to be updated. Here are four considerations for reviewing your Form W-4:

  • Remember that claiming credits (such as the child tax credit and other dependent credits) will decrease the amount you need to withhold.
  • Adjust for more withholding if you have additional income (like a second job or income-producing investments).
  • Remember to adjust for less withholding if you’re expecting to claim itemized deductions.
  • Notate any additional income tax you’d like withheld from each paycheck.

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March 2

Make it easier to check your account balances by bookmarking all your financial sites.

This week’s “one simple task” is about as easy as it gets. Have the key websites you need to visit easily accessible so that you can get the information you’re looking for in an efficient manner.

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February 24

Gather all tax documents early in preparation for April 15.

Start a file and gather your tax forms all in one place. Add each as you receive it to save yourself time down the road. Examples include last year’s taxes, W-2s, 1099s, form 1098-E (for homeowners), form 1098-T (for education expenses), contribution information, documentation on tax-deductible retirement plan contributions, gain and loss reports, K-1s (for partnerships), any supporting documentation for tax deductions or credits, charitable donations, estimated tax payments you already sent to the government, and bank account information. If you contributed to a 529 plan and your state offers a tax benefit, you’ll want to keep that information on hand as well. 

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February 17

Set up your phone’s legacy contact.

Your phone holds a wealth of important data, such as contact information, notes and emails. In order for friends or family members to access your cell phone data after your passing, you’ll first need to assign a legacy contact. View the related article linked below for instructions on how to set up a legacy contact for your iPhone or Android — the process should only take a couple of minutes!

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February 10

Go on a “money date.”

If you’re married or have a partner with whom you share finances, chances are good you’re long overdue for a money date. A money date is simply a scheduled conversation to discuss how your money fits into your goals, values and priorities (both shared and individual). Make sure you plan your money date with enough time to prepare beforehand in order to get the most out of your conversation.

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February 3

Increase your contribution rate by 1%.

Increasing your retirement contribution rate by 1% may not seem like enough to make an impact, but it is. You most likely won’t notice the 1% in your daily life, but that small adjustment can grow exponentially. If you increase your contribution by 1% annually for the next 30 years, you could end up with hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional retirement savings.

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January 27

Review your asset location.

Much like real estate, location is a crucial factor of your savings. The tax treatment of the accounts you have money saved in is just as important as the amount you have saved. Consider reviewing the tax benefits of each type of account you’re currently funding and whether they’re the most tax-efficient options.

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January 20

Check your asset allocation.

What percentage of your assets are in stocks, bonds and cash? Your asset allocation should reflect your risk tolerance based on when you want to retire. After retirement, you may want to adjust your allocations to reflect your spending needs.

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January 13

Get a second opinion from a fiduciary advisor.

There will be 8,760 hours in 2024, and you’ll spend about 2,400 of them working and earning money. Why not spend just one or two of those hours double checking that your finances are handled properly? Meet with an independent, experienced registered investment advisor and get a second opinion on your financial plan to confirm it’s set up for success.

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January 6

Meet your employer’s match.

Don’t leave free money on the table. Confirm what your employer’s match is and exactly how much you need to contribute to your 401(k) to receive it all. There’s no other place where you can earn a guaranteed 100% return on your investment.

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No matter what stage of your financial journey you’re in, it’s always the right time to give your financials a second look. We’ll be updating this article each week with a new step to improve your financial wellness, so stay tuned for more insights!

Interested in more practical financial planning advice? Listen live every weekend to our Rethink Your Money™ radio show, hosted by Wealth Manager John Hagensen, for additional commentary on small financial habits that can make a big impact. Find your local station to tune in to the next episode.

This commentary is provided for general information purposes only, should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice, and does not constitute an attorney/client relationship. Past performance of any market results is no assurance of future performance. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources deemed reliable but is not guaranteed.

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