I absolutely love fall. It is far and away my favorite season. I love everything about it. The clothes (sweaters, scarves, boots), the smells (crisp air, the cidery smell of leaves as they start to decay on the ground, the cinnamon and amber candles), and the fact that it’s no longer shameful to put cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger in everything. Fall in my part of the country tends to be a very short season, so I live up every second that I can.
I also think there is a philosophical depth to fall that can be applied to many areas of our lives. Fall represents the end of summer and the leaves go out with a bang with their great shows of color – a celebration of their life in my opinion. As they fall it represents the end of those leaves, but we know that something just as sweet will return in the spring. It’s a time of rebirth.
Fall also brings the harvest. Whether you’re a true farmer, a farmer’s market aficionado, or a backyard gardening failure like myself, we should all appreciate that fall represents the culmination of a season of efforts.
For these reasons, fall feels like a natural season to look at our finances. I don’t do financial new years resolutions because resolutions notoriously fail. So here are 6 ways I’m re-evaluating my finances this fall and how you can do it too:
1. Insurance open enrollment
My employer does open enrollment for insurance in the fall. Every year when this comes around, I evaluate my coverage, think about what I used in the last year, and think about what insurance needs I may have next year. For example, I had a baby this year. I knew she would be born in March so last year I kept my low deductible health plan because I knew there would be big expenses. But this year, I don’t anticipate big medical costs and plan to switch to a high-deductible plan with an HSA. I will write more about that later, stay tuned.
2. Adjust for the end of tax year
By doing a financial reset in the fall, you still have time before you have to file taxes for this year. This allows you the chance to look at what you’ve earned this year, what you expect to come in, and evaluate what you expect your tax bill may be. I use Turbotax because I can play with numbers anytime (I realize the specific tax laws change every year and you should always update the software, but it works as a best estimate).
You can evaluate if you should adjust your withholdings to lower your tax bill or see if you can save any more in tax-deferred accounts to lower your bill. By doing it now, you still have time to make an impact.
3. Evaluate what’s in your checking account
This isn’t an item I originally planned to include when I was thinking about this post, but it’s something I realized because we are in the process of changing banks. We are switching from a large national bank to a local credit union (for various reasons) but one of the by-products of that process is that I have been forced to go through my bank account with a fine-toothed comb.
By changing banks, I also looked at all my automatic withdrawals. This is a great exercise to make sure your money is intentionally coming from where you want. I am a huge fan of automatic payments (forgetful people like me need all the help we can get). Over time though, as we have set up various payments we have set them up through various ways i.e. ACH transfer straight from the bank account, from my credit card, from the Mr’s credit card.
By reviewing where each automatic payment is coming from we were able to switch some of them to optimize the rewards points we get on our credit cards. It’s also a great way to make sure you aren’t losing money to an auto-draft you no longer need.
4. Review your savings accounts
This was another byproduct of switching banks. I had a bunch of little savings accounts that I have set up over the years, or that were set up for me in the past. (My personal savings accounts, our joint savings account, a savings account my Mom had set up for me years ago, an online savings account we had opened for higher interest rates… you get the picture). None of them had a ton of money in them individually, but because they were all spread across different accounts I didn’t appreciate how much I had saved.
I don’t want to keep too much money in liquid cash savings when my money can be working harder for me an investment account so by truly evaluating all these little accounts and combining them I realized I’m closer to starting an investment account than I thought.
5. Look at your budget
Maybe you’re a spreadsheet geek who loves keeping track of your spending regularly. Maybe you keep your budget in your head and don’t feel like you need to micromanage it. I kind of waffle between the two. Either way, it’s a good time to take stock of exactly how much you spend versus how much you take in. Is your spending aligning with your priorities? If not, now is the time to do something about it.
6. Re-evaluate your goals
There are big-picture goals and then there are shorter-term goals, right? The short-term goals are actionable items we can take to meet our long-term goals. If they’re out of whack, you’re never going to meet the long-term goals. Random useless fact: Did you know that when flying a plane for every one mile you fly one degree off course you miss your target destination by 92 feet? That can add up over the course of a flight! My point is, if the little details are off you will never meet the big goals. Don’t miss your financial goals by one-degree failures. Once you’ve gone through all these steps, your final step is to determine if the actions you have taken up to this point are allowing to meet your short and long-term goals.
Do you think there are any other major financial moves you should make in the fall? Or is there a better time to take these steps? Let me know in the comments!