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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money

A Quick Financial Checklist

How are you doing financially? No, I'm not asking how you think you're doing, or how you feel about your financial situation. I'm asking about cold, hard facts: How are you doing? Let's talk about some ways to get a handle on this.

Answer these questions to get a quick sense of whether you're in financial quicksand, or on more sold ground.

1 .Are you behind on any bills right now?

2. If you have credit cards, did you pay more than the minimum balance this month? Or eve n better, did you pay the balance in full? Is the amount you owe increasing or decreasing?

3. Do you have enough savings to cover an emergency, like replacing a refrigerator or taking your sick pet to the vet? How many months could you live on your savings?
4. If you needed to borrow money, is there negative information on your credit history that would prevent you from qualifying for a good interest rate?

5. Do you have insurance to cover major financial risks? This might include medical, disability, auto, and renters or homeowners insurance. For those 50 and older, it might include long term care insurance.

6. Did you put aside some money as savings last month?

7. Are you saving for retirement? If your employer matches contributions to a retirement plan, did you contribute enough to get all the matching money?

8. If you have an IRA, 401(k), or other investments, is your investment mix appropriate for your age, financial situation, and risk tolerance?

9. Do you know what income tax deductions you are eligible for? What is your income tax bracket? What actions could you take to reduce your tax liability for 2013?

10. Have you done a net worth statement in the last six months, identifying everything you own and all your debts?

11. Do you have a Power of Attorney for Property as well as one for healthcare, designating who you want to make decisions for you if you aren't able?

12. Who would get your property if you died? Are you using tools like wills, trusts, joint ownership, Payable on Death (POD) and Transfer on Death (TOD) or beneficiary designations to assure that your loved ones or chosen charities will inherit your assets with a minimum of cost or hassle?

Your answers should point out your financial strengths, and your weaknesses. You may feel knowledgeable about some of these questions. Others may make you uncomfortable. Pay attention to that discomfort. If you need help with one or more of these areas, are you getting that help? You might need a professional credit counselor or a mentor to help you manage debt or control spending habits. You might need a tax preparer, an attorney to help you with estate planning, or guidance choosing investments in your 401(k). provides tips on choosing a reliable credit counselor. A University of Illinois Extension website, Choosing a Financial Professional, can help you evaluate many of the other types of financial advisors you might use. If you have questions about finding other types of financial guidance, please click "Leave a comment, below, to post your question.

Thank you Karen Chan (University of Illinois Extension Special Projects and guest blogger for Plan Well, Retire Well) for this checklist!


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