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SPOTLIGHT
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Steps for a mid-year financial checkup

Published on -8/29/2013, 10:40 AM

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Now that we're more than halfway through the year and settling back into a fall routine, it's a great time to do a quick financial checkup. Taking some time to review your financial progress from the first half of the year can help you organize and prepare for the remaining months.

Here are six simple steps for a mid-year financial checkup:

1. Review your New Year's resolutions. Did you make any financial resolutions to kick off 2013? Now is the perfect time to look back and see how you did. If you followed through, congrats. Set some new financial milestones to continue your streak.

If you didn't do too well, think about why you weren't able to stick to your goal. Was your budget too strict? Did you have some unexpected expenses? Set new goals that will help you stay on track.

2. Reorganize your financial goals. The next step is to reprioritize your goals. If you have multiple debts you're paying off, decide which one you want to aggressively pay off first. Choose either the one with the higher interest rate or the smallest balance -- whichever will help you stay motivated.

3. Be prepared for emergencies. Saving and paying off debt at the same time can be challenging, but it's totally doable. Tuck away some money each month into an emergency fund. We all face unexpected expenses at times -- just make sure to refill your emergency fund if you have to use it. Start with a goal to save $1,000. Then, the next step is to save up enough for three to six months of expenses for a good emergency cushion.

4. Cut unnecessary expenses. When reviewing your expenses so far, if you notice a lot of unnecessary spending, it's time to trim the fat. Can you cut back on discretionary expenses such as eating out, shopping, extra travel costs? Are there some monthly bills you can reduce or live without? Why not save some of that extra cash instead?

5. Plan for holiday spending now. This might sound crazy, considering we're still in the heat of summer, but planning ahead and saving a little extra for the holidays now will help keep you from incurring holiday debts later.

6. Don't neglect your retirement fund. It's never too early -- or too late -- to start planning for retirement. Does your employer offer a 401(k) plan? Take advantage of it. Many employers also match a percentage of your contributions. If a 401(k) isn't an option, consider opening an IRA or individual retirement account.

If these six steps are a helpful reminder, maybe you're ready for a more in-depth financial review. Ask for the Extension publication "How Are You Doing: A Financial Checkup" at the Ellis County Extension office, (785) 628-9430, or find it online at www.ksre.ksu.edu/bookstore/pubs/MF2721.pdf. It can help you identify problems, chart progress and provide motivation if changes are needed.

Linda Beech is a Kansas State University Research & Extension agent in Ellis County specializing in family and consumer sciences. lbeech@ksu.edu

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