Year-end resolutions: a financial check up



Financial Advisor Assisting Senior Couple

You may want to set aside time to go over your finances with a financial planner–a wise idea at any age. ©Thinkstock

The factory where Sam works shuts down for inventory the last two weeks of the year. He welcomes extra time with his family over the holidays and the time fills up quickly. As he looks at the growing pile of quarterly 401(k) statements and the recently received annual life insurance summary on his desk, his first inclination is to catch up on his filing. Then he begins to wonder how his investments are performing given the recent stock market correction. Sam also realizes that two of his children weren’t yet born when his life insurance policy was issued. Have they been added as beneficiaries? Time to review!

Many people make New Year’s resolutions. How about making a year-end resolution? I suggest finding some time to assess, review, consider, evaluate, contemplate or discuss your finances.

We’ve all heard, today is the first day of the rest of your life. Well, today is also the first day of the rest of your financial life. We don’t usually wake up mornings and say, “Today, I’m going to determine if I’m saving enough for retirement.” or “Today I’m going to review my life insurance.”

When times are good, work is plentiful, gas is less expensive, and we are healthy, there is less perceived need to check in about our finances with our mentor, our spouse, or a financial advisor. When we experience goodness, we tend to tell fewer people than when we experience hard times.

Today is also the first day of the rest of your financial life.

The “Great Recession’ began in 2008. The years following were a time to cut back, hold on, become lean and mean … you remember. But now that the economy is slowly improving, jobs are more plentiful, and gas is reasonably affordable, it could be just the right time for you to be resolute about reviewing your finances.

I’m not speaking about beating yourself up about a household budget or arguing about where the money went last month. Just choose two or three areas that affect or could affect the financial plan for your household and be intentional about discussing them.

Here is a list to consider:

How much life insurance do I have? Is it portable from my workplace? Is it permanent (until I die) or term (expiring at the end of 10 to 30 years)? Do I want to consider life insurance for my children that they could assume as adults? Life insurance has become an additional tax free investment class in the current environment of low interest rates.

How much am I saving for unplanned or planned changes in employment, medical emergencies, vehicle replacement, additional education, retirement, travel, or home repairs?

How is my credit score looking these days? When did I last access my free credit report?  This review might reveal that I have more credit cards than I need.

When am I going to start drawing Social Security? How much difference does deferring my benefits for one or more years make in the monthly amount? How much additional income do I need to supplement Social Security?

Will I outlive my assets? When will my savings for retirement run out? Have I planned well enough to protect my nest egg from the high costs of skilled long-term care if I need to rely on professional nursing care in my later years?

Is my will current? Do my various designated beneficiaries reflect my current wishes?  Do I need a trust? Have I made provisions for the charitable organizations I wish to support?

If your answers to any of the above series of financial planning questions have prompted you to take action, congratulations, your year-end review has begun! If you want to consider how a trusted financial advisor could help you with the needs you have identified, many advisors offer a “no-cost or obligation” initial consultation. Some of the needs you identify may require the services of other professionals. Your financial advisor can usually make recommendations to meet those needs as well.

If you are successful in meeting the challenge of a year-end financial review, you will have given yourself and your loved ones a significant gift.

ROY M. BERGEY is the guest Money Matters writer for this issue of Valley Living. He is licensed to discuss and/or offer financial services and products to residents of Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wyoming. Contact him at 901 Parkwood Drive, Harrisonburg, or 574-361-6263, or or


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