Start Planning Ahead as This Summer Ends

The beginning of a new school year isn’t just for kids; September feels like a fresh slate for adults, too. Let summer’s end serve as a reminder to revisit your finances and ensure they’re on track for the rest of the year.

These tips can make your analysis more useful:

Goals vs. reality. Hopefully, you set financial goals at the beginning of the year. If you did, check your progress. How much have you saved? How are your investments performing? Do you need to make any changes?

Budget. Why not consider setting one up for next year based on this year’s review. Look at what you’ve spent to-date, and where you may have over- or under-spent. This is especially important if you’ve had a change in life circumstances, such as a marriage, divorce, baby or job change.

Review your credit report. You’re entitled to one free credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies (through Many people choose to stagger reports from each agency so they receive a report every four months. Also note: If you’ve become a victim of identity theft, checking your credit regularly will tip you off before more damage is done.

Look for opportunities to lower interest rates. You can refinance all kinds of loans to get a lower rate: mortgages, auto loans, even student loans. And you’ll likely pay less in total interest over the years. Also look at credit-card debt. You can explore 0% balance transfer offers, but do the math to ensure that savings won’t be offset by fees.

Reconsider your insurance needs. As life circumstances change, so do insurance needs. Do your homeowners, auto, life, and medical coverage still suit your needs? Are you under- or over-insured? Should your coverage change? Discuss the options with your insurance agent, who can help you find the coverage that’s right for you.

Are You Worried About Spending Too Much in Retirement?

Even if you receive a decent pension and/or have adequate savings in retirement accounts, you still may worry that you’re spending too much in retirement. It’s not uncommon for people who transition from diligent saving to spending to have these feelings of uncertainty. Luckily, there are ways to mitigate them.

First, shift the focus from what you’re spending to the activities that could make your retirement more satisfying. Spending isn’t the end goal; it’s a means of helping you better enjoy this new phase of your life. Do you want to travel? Learn a new skill? Relocate?

Ease into the mindset that retirement can be a time to savor new experiences and have fun. It won’t happen immediately, but gradually you’ll feel more comfortable spending on things that improve your life.

Second, figure out how long your retirement savings might last at different spending rates. This will give you a sense of just how much wiggle room you actually have, and eliminate any fears that you could run out of money prematurely.

There are retirement income calculators available online in which you enter the amount of your savings, then experiment with different rates of withdrawals to find the spending level where you may be endangering your nest egg.

Even better, discuss your situation with your advisor; he or she knows your situation and can recommend changes that can help ease your mind.

By going through this process annually, you should be able to settle on a level of retirement spending you’re comfortable with.