Trying to keep up with all one’s financial accounts and numbers can be maddening, especially if you obsess over all of them on a constant basis. However, if you just decide to never look at them and “wing it,” you are setting yourself up for trouble. Your identity could be stolen, you could just be sloppier and miss something, or you could never take advantage of the value of simply “checking in” on your finances.
So where is the balance? As my family continues to try to get on track with our finances, here is a list of about how often we take a look at certain accounts and numbers. These are not perfect, but they help us find the balance between going mad and never knowing anything.
At Least Once a Week
1. Checking/savings accounts. At the very least, take a look at your main checking or savings account to have a “feel” for where you are. I am terrible about balancing the checkbook, but my wife is much better. She tries to keep it up with our online notes weekly. Usually, around my lunch break, I take a very quick glance at our checking account, just to see where we are. Balancing the checkbook is better, but looking online is a good habit to have just to stay current.
2. Other common accounts. This is just a quick “peek” at any other accounts that you keep at a local bank that are not meant for investment purposes. I take a look about once each week at our emergency fund and “car replacement fund,” for example, just to make sure nothing has happened to them. It takes less than a minute to do this online, but the peace of mind is worth it. This may seem like overkill, but that money is accessible enough that I like to take a quick look anyway.
3. Budget. There are plenty of articles on this blog to tell you more about budgeting, but make sure you do this each month. No two months are alike. We try to budget a day or two before the new month begins so that we are ready. Also, this gives you time to make an adjustment ahead of time if you forgot something in the upcoming month (Father’s Day, school pictures, HOA dues, etc.).
4. Bills! Many bills can be autodrafted, so you never have to worry about late fees. If you do not trust e-banking, that’s fine. Put a day or two each month on your calendar to pay bills and take the time to do it. It’s not a lot of fun, but it needs to be done monthly. By the way, you might also want to give Manilla a try . . . .
5. Debt levels. If you are getting out of debt, take a few moments each month (probably when you pay your bills) to track your progress in paying off debt. If you are following Dave Ramsey’s “debt snowball,” this will be quite easy to track, but it’s still worth it to see the traction you have.
6. Investments. I am not very good at tracking investments over a short period of time. I have found that, if I keep my view over the past few months, that helps me continue to think long-term. Quarterly looks at the performance of our investments helps me get a better picture of how we are doing. Now, could I miss out on a big short-term gain? I guess, but I’m in for the long haul, so I’m not worried about trying to time the market.
7. Insurance. This may be too often, but about once per quarter it’s good to take a look at your policy on things like your car, life insurance, or disability just to “re-educate” yourself as to what you actually have. Also, especially in auto insurance, you need to really think through insurance quarterly or yearly to be sure you have what you need.
8. Mortgage. This is “quarterly at most,” but I like to take a look at our mortgage statements every few months to see how we are tracking in paying off the house. This also is a chance to “re-educate” with some of the terms and terminology, in case we see something that looks wrong.
9. Wills and related papers. Life changes over the course of a year. You may not have to redraft a will (or revocable trust, or other similar papers), but you do need to review them. Make sure any major life changes are reflected in the papers, and just double-check the wording.
10. Life insurance. I wouldn’t take too much time to do this, but about once each year, make sure you have the levels of life insurance you truly need. If you have a term policy, you are probably fine, but it’s still worth a few moments to review.
What other “regular” tasks would you include? Any changes you would make to this list? Leave a comment below!