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Fall financial goal check-in

Fall is finally here and brings with it the joy of a new school year, another football season and a welcome round of homecomings and vacations.

Autumn is a busy time, and it can often be expensive – which means it’s worth setting aside a few hours to check your finances. Whether you’re sad to see the end of summer or excited for cooler weather, it’s a great time to ask yourself how you feel about your financial goals for 2022—and what you still need to do before winter arrives.

“Fall is a good time to think about what you want to accomplish before the end of the year,” says Jim Wang, founder of WalletHacks.

You might want to start by revisiting your financial summer checkup. For example, if you set yourself the goal of building an emergency fund, how much did you want to set aside this summer — and how much did you actually save? If you are ahead of the autumn financial check, that is good. If you̵

7;re behind schedule, you still have time to catch up—but keep in mind that for many people, this time of year requires not only a change in temperature, but also in priorities.

“When fall rolls around, most people think about back to school and the upcoming holidays,” explains Steffa Mantilla, Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) and founder of Money Tamer. “Both of these can be strains on your budget, so it’s important to start planning and saving for them now.”

We asked our experts how you can prepare for your fall financial planning — and here’s what we learned. Read on for our best autumn financial tips.

Get ready to go back to school

For many parents, the school year has already started, or they’re preparing to start—whether it’s streamlining the morning routine, learning to pack better lunches, or talking to their kids about updated mask mandates. They’re also dealing with higher-than-usual grocery prices, not to mention notebooks, new shoes, and long-awaited haircuts.

If you’re experiencing financial stress and aren’t ready to handle the increased costs of going back to school, it’s time to reevaluate your budget. You might want to consider cutting back on streaming services, for example—especially now that the kids will be out of the house most of the day. You may also need to hit pause on your savings goal – at least for a while.

“If the cost of back-to-school is out of reach,” says Mantilla, “you should reevaluate your savings goal to see if you can get by with less.” Try to have enough money on hand to cover an emergency or any unexpected expense, and remember that investing in your children’s education is one of the best ways to create generational wealth.

Start saving for the holidays

The holidays will be here soon whether you’re ready or not – and one of the best ways to prepare for the holidays is to save money now.

How much money should you save for the 2022 holiday season? Take a look at past years’ holiday costs to get an idea of ​​how much your holiday usually costs. Then ask yourself how much you want to spend this year – and how much you might need to set aside each month. Setting budgets like this is especially important if you want to have a debt-free vacation this year.

“Once you have the amount, you can divide it by the number of months you have before you need to spend the money,” explains Mantilla. “This monthly amount is how much you need to save to reach your goals on time.”

If you’re not sure if you’ll be able to save enough to cover the cost of your vacation, you may want to look for ways to make more money this fall. “Find ways to make up the difference,” says Mantilla. “This could mean putting in overtime at work or taking on odd jobs on weekends for a little extra cash.”

Plan for tax season

There’s another annual event you’ll want to start thinking about this fall. Tax season will be here before you know it – and the more you plan ahead, the easier it will be to file your taxes.

“Tax planning is especially important because we often only think about it as we approach Christmas, when the time crunch puts an unnecessary sense of urgency and pressure on our decisions,” says Wang. “It’s better to start tax planning now and make those preparations early.”

What kinds of preparations should you make? Wang has two suggestions. First, start by looking for opportunities to defer income. “If you expect a year-end bonus, could your company delay it until January 1 instead of paying it out in December?” Wang asks. “You will still owe tax on the bonus, but not until the next tax year.”

Deferring income can benefit people who may be in a lower tax bracket in the future – especially if you take advantage of retirement plans that allow you to defer tax on your contributions until you start taking withdrawals. If you’re worried about how the recession might affect your job, deferred income can be a way to keep a little more of your hard-earned money. “It’s easier to have these conversations in September than in December,” advises Wang—and that’s true whether you’re talking to your spouse about your career prospects or talking to your employer about deferring a bonus.

Wang also suggests looking at the alternative minimum tax (AMT) system. “AMT is a separate tax system that has slightly different exemptions and tax rates,” he explains, “and is intended to ensure that taxpayers pay a minimum amount in taxes.” Be aware that the AMT system can limit your potential deductions — and be prepared to calculate your taxable income under both the AMT and the regular system before you file.

No matter how you approach your financial goals this fall, taking the time to check in on your progress will help you make smart decisions as you head back to school, prepare for the holidays, and start planning for next year’s taxes. You may discover a new way to earn income – or a new way to plan financially!

Not bad for a season that’s all about learning, reconnecting, and harvesting—and, of course, preparing to celebrate the end of the year.

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