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EIGHT WAYS TO CHECK YOUR FINANCIAL WELLNESS

When you think of “Financial Wellness,” what immediately comes to mind? While it may be as simple as making sure you can pay your bills, there are many avenues you must explore to ensure your current and future financial stability.  Financial Wellness is not about how much money you have; rather, it’s about examining your circumstances and making sure that you are mentally and financially prepared for whatever life may throw at you.  Just as you would call your doctor if something was wrong with your body, you should call your advisor to discuss any changes in your finances.  If you discuss what’s keeping you up at night, together, you can plan a healthier future.

Debt Check
The most basic way to test the health of your wallet is to consider your income and assets versus expenses and liabilities.  Many people try to invest money through various means before they have fully paid off debt.  You should always be looking for ways to pay down credit card and other high interest loans.  Doing so will alleviate stress and put you in a better position for future investments.

Emergency Fund
Building a strong savings account is paramount in managing your financial wellness.  This does not include an investment in any stocks, bonds, or mutual funds, as this money should be liquid and without risk.  Try to save between 8-12 months worth of expenses in case of an injury, long-term illness, or any other hardship.  Having an emergency fund can drastically change your mindset when you are faced with unforeseen circumstances.

Taxes
We all owe taxes, but are you consulting with an advisor to minimize your taxes each year?  Are you aware of any changes to tax laws that may benefit your personal or business situation?  If you find yourself owing money each year and being unprepared to pay that bill to the government, it may be time to adjust your withholding or set aside a specific savings account allocated to pay taxes.

Life Insurance
Like an emergency fund, people purchase insurance to manage the “what if” scenarios in life.  There are many types of life insurance; you may need to purchase life insurance for income replacement, debt repayment, funding of future expenses, or an estate tax bill.  Rather than going directly to an insurance agent, discuss your situation with your financial advisor; your advisor knows your financial health history and they can help you look at the insurance options that best fit your needs.

Retirement/ Paying Your Future Self
Retirement seems to be the one item that gets pushed to the back-burner, especially for younger income-earners.  But building a retirement nest egg is fundamental to your future financial wellness.  With life expectancies increasing, you may find yourself retired for 30+ years!  Make sure that you begin saving for retirement as soon as you begin earning income.  Saving in an employer-sponsored plan like a 401(K) could also minimize your current tax burden.  Try to max-out your contribution to the plan and make sure to ask about any employer “match.”  If your employer matches your contributions, it like free money paid to your future self.

College Savings
If you have children, you may not always expect them to go to college, or plan to utilize student loans to pay for college.  But, it would be wise to consider the tax-efficient ways to save for college to minimize this future cost.  Helping your kids to avoid this type of debt may be a good way to ensure financial wellness for both of you.

Estate Plan
Do you have a Will or Trust?  How will your assets be distributed upon your death?  Do you have a guardian for your minor children?  These are the questions that can keep you up at night if you don’t have a plan in place.  Take this item off of your to-do list and consult with an estate planning attorney to draft the necessary documents to protect your family in the event of your death.

Long Term Care
One of the major stresses for the aging population is health and finances.  How long will you be able to live independently?  What health complications might you have?  Will you have enough money to cover your medical expenses? No one can predict the answer to these questions, so preparing a long-term care plan that covers your future health needs can greatly diminish stress for you and your family.

Check in with your own financial “doctor” and explore ways to improve your Financial Wellness.  Sometimes, creative thinking and an alternate perspective can help you make small changes that make a big difference in your peace of mind.