Monday, July 29, 2013

Building and Maintaining a Financial Schedule

Having a financial schedule to keep various activities on track is an important way we manage our personal finances.  It acts not only as an important checklist but as a way to keep us on track with a variety of financial events and duties that we must handle throughout the year.

However, building and maintaining our financial schedule is more than just a one-and-done duty.  It’s a continually evolving process as our family grows and our finances change.  So using the following breakdown helps keep us on track and better organized in a fairly efficient manner when it comes to our maintaining our personal finances.

Monthly or sooner
As our lives supposedly become easier due to technology, and we make use of things like automated bill pay or direct deposit to take some of the strain of doing such things ourselves, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we can just take for granted certain regular financial responsibilities.

Of course there are the regular bills that still arrive on a monthly basis no matter how we pay them.  Beyond this aspect of our regular finances though, there are other things that I check on a “monthly or sooner” basis.  One such area is our bank accounts -- especially our checking account.  While we still pay the majority of our bills with checks, even if we didn’t, reconciling our accounts is something I typically do on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.  This helps ensure that checks are getting where they need to go, are clearing in the correct amounts, and that our accounts balance.

I also tend to check our retirement accounts on at least a monthly basis, not necessarily because I need to, but I find it an interesting gauge of how these funds are progressing -- or not progressing -- and I like to see their correlation with the stock market and economy in general.

Quarterly or tri-annually
Then of course there are the items that are handled quarterly.  Items like free credit reports and password updates are the main items that I tend to handle each quarter.  By updating account passwords every three months, I feel it changes things up often enough that I avoid leaving them unattended too long, but not so often that the process become overly burdensome, since I’m often astounded at just how many accounts we have and how many user names and passwords there are to keep up with in our family.

Running free credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies through www.annualcreditreport.com was something that I initially started doing on an annual basis, running all three at the same time.  However, I eventually began to run one every four months, preferring to break up the reports (from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) throughout the year so that I could get a more frequent accounting of our credit status.  This avoided a lengthy period without any supervision over our credit should something happen that would require our attention.

Annually
Finally, we get down to the stuff that is typically handled annually.  It’s not that these items aren’t important, but I tend to find that sometimes the less I fiddle with them the better.  And in some cases -- such as vehicle or home insurance -- they just aren’t items that I need to update or adjust more often.
 
The following are the main items that we find it helpful to review on an annual basis:

  • Auto insurance
  • Homeowner’s insurance
  • Retirement investment allocations/portfolio diversification
  • Social Security estimated benefits and annual earnings review

I also tend to update our itemized home content video recording every year or so -- or when we move -- just to keep it current with changes to our living location or our additions to our home furnishings or possessions.

By sticking to this financial schedule, I find that we’re better able to organize our financial affairs and then keep them organized without too much effort.  While everyone’s situation is different, and adjustments might be necessary based upon personal preference or financial needs, we find that having a schedule that we can break down into time segments makes it much simpler to stay appraised of our personal finances.

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