You may not have been in school for decades, but whether you have kids or not, summer’s long days, laid-back attitudes, and fun weekend plans can make it easy to loosen your grip on to-do lists while enjoying the moments as they come. And while you deserve the break, these simple financial things can be done on a summer Friday—even by the pool—and can help you stay in good financial shape, both for this fall and the distant future.
We’ve compiled a list of easy-to-do money deals that you can check off your list on a summer Friday or easily within a month. You’ll have your finances humming before you know it.
Take a look at your financial goals
Do you remember the goals you set on New Year̵7;s Day? The ones you swore you’d get around to this year? Summer is a great time to check them out and refine them. You don’t have to worry if you’re a little behind.
Don’t have any financial goals? Now is a good time to clarify what you have, whether you’re saving for a college savings fund, paying off debt, or saving for a down payment on a home. If you want to buy a house or get married in the next year, your budget should reflect these goals.
Financial goals do not necessarily have to be tied to a life event. All goals – both short-term and long-term – will help you keep your finances pointed in the direction you want to go.
Cheatsheet: How to control, refine and work towards your goals:
- Write it down. Create a list of short-term (less than 12 months) and long-term (12 months+) goals. Include the total cost of each goal, when you want to achieve it, and your action plan to get there.
- Update your goals. Goals can change from month to month, so review your budget to make sure it reflects these changes. For a motivational boost, give yourself at least one simple goal that you can achieve each month along with the more difficult goals that may take a while to achieve.
- Track your progress. Find a system that works for you to track your financial goals. For some people, a sticky note on the fridge or bathroom mirror is motivation enough. Others may use a financial app or regular check-ins with an accountability partner (a partner, friend, or financial expert). If you don’t regularly commit to your goal, it’s easy to forget about it.
Clean up your credit
Regardless of your credit rating, ignoring it or assuming everything is fine is a common mistake. Since you’re the one whose financial goals are at stake, it’s in your best interest to avoid falling into complacency. I’m a big proponent of checking your credit frequently through one of the mobile credit apps like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma that are free to use and keep you in touch with what’s happening with your credit score.
Here is a story about a real person. A client of mine thought she had great credit. She went to buy a new couch and decided to put it on the store’s credit card. Unfortunately, her application was rejected. This confused her. It wasn’t until she looked at her credit report that she realized she had been the victim of fraud and that someone was using her social security number to open credit cards, make purchases and then not pay the bills.
Credit scores range from 300-850, and my client’s score had dropped to around 600, which is considered bad credit. Fixing her credit took months.
Check your credit rating and your credit report at least twice a year.
Cheatsheet: Simple Credit Score Cleanup Strategies
- Get your credit report. You are legally entitled to one free copy every 12 months from each of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Annualcreditreport.com is the only website authorized to provide your free annual credit report. You may want to request a credit report every four months to keep an eye on your credit throughout the year. The credit bureaus are not obligated to provide free credit scores.
- Clean up errors on your credit report. Mistakes can lower your score. If you find something wrong, start by disputing it online while viewing your report.
- Bookmark websites where you can check your credit score for free. Some to try: Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, CreditWise, Discover, Mint, and NerdWallet. You can check your credit score as often as you like without affecting your score.
- If you get to a payment page for your credit report or credit score, start over. You do not need to enter a credit card number to get free credit reports or free credit scores.
- Is your credit score lower than you want? To improve that, commit to paying your bills on time (if you haven’t signed up for autopay, now is a good time to do so) and reduce your revolving debt. Your credit card balance should be as low as possible and no more than 30% of your credit limits (on each card and overall). These two factors make up 65% of your credit score.
Get your 401(k) in check
Summer is a great time to check in on your 401(k).
- Understand the allocation of your portfolio
- See if you contribute enough to take full advantage of any employer match
- Check fees and make sure your account meets your needs at a price you’re comfortable with
Your 401(k) is likely the first place you started investing, and it can be overlooked throughout the year — or maybe from the day you set up your portfolio. One of the most compelling reasons to contribute to your 401(k) is a company match. If your company offers a match, it means they will contribute additional money to your 401(k).
Let’s say they match 50% up to the first 6% of the grant. In English, that means they will contribute 3% if you contribute 6% of your salary each month to your 401(k). The 6% you contribute comes out of your money. The 3% they contribute comes out of their money. Yes, their money. You don’t want to leave money on the table. There are some pretty good combinations in life like peanut butter and jelly, but the 401(k) and match combo tops it.
You’re not alone if you have no idea which funds to choose for your 401(k), but don’t let that stop you from taking full advantage of this benefit if it’s offered to you.
Cheatsheet: Consider These Strategies When Researching Your 401(k)
- It’s a good idea to check if your risk tolerance has changed over time. Risk tolerance is a combination of personal preference and time to retirement. Take an online quiz to find out yours.
- Consider a robo-advisory service like Blooom if you want help managing your 401(k). Betterment and Wealthfront are also popular options. It is also possible to open an IRA or ROTH IRA through companies such as Betterment, Wealthfront, Fidelity and others.
- Are you expecting a raise, or have you received a raise in the past year? Challenge yourself to raise your contribution. When it comes to how much you should save, there is no maximum.
Negotiate a bill
Bargaining may seem like an unusual item to add to your summer money to-do list. But negotiating can be a powerful strategy for putting more money back in your bank account and making you more aware of bills that may have the potential to be reduced or eliminated. We’re not talking about the kind of negotiations that will bring beads of sweat to your brow. Instead, think of negotiation as asking questions of your service providers to make sure you get the best possible deal. The worst they can say is no.
Here are some simple negotiations you can start with:
- Ask for an interest rate reduction on your credit card
- Ask your carrier if you have the best plan based on your usage trends
- Ask to have your credit card annual fee waived or reduced
- Ask your cable and internet providers if you have the best plan at the lowest price
I have successfully negotiated interest rate reductions and annual fee reductions on my credit cards for years. I make a calendar event every summer to revisit where I am right now and then call the credit card companies directly. I start with, “I’ve been a long-time customer of your credit card and I’m interested in seeing if I can get a lower interest rate.” Fill in the blanks with whatever request you have, but it really can be that simple. Credit card companies can compete for your business because they know you can use another bank’s card.
Cheat Sheet: 4 Negotiation Strategies to Consider
- Always be nice and polite
- If you don’t get the answer you want, feel free to call back or ask to speak to a supervisor
- Credit card negotiation works best if you are a good paying customer (even better if you have been a long time customer)
- It’s easy to find yourself stuck with an outdated internet, cell phone or cable plan. Make a calendar event to negotiate and examine these bills at least once a year.
Obtain life insurance (and update any beneficiary information)
If you haven’t yet gotten around to buying life insurance, it’s a good thing to add to your to-do list.
Do you already have life insurance? Good! But it’s worth your time to draft your policy and make sure the beneficiaries you’ve named are still correct. It’s also a good time to review any other insurance policies you have, such as homeowner’s insurance, or research policies you may be curious about, such as health insurance, and also make sure the policies are up-to-date, all contact information is current, and the coverage matches your expectations for what you should have.
A slow summer Friday can be a great day to review policies and paperwork. In addition to life insurance, consider making sure any other documents are current as well. Take a look at the list below. You’ll want to review coverage levels, beneficiaries, allocations, and other details, depending on the document.
Cheatsheet: Consider reviewing these documents
- Life insurance (if you don’t have life insurance, you can easily apply for life insurance online)
- Estate planning documents like your will and living trust (if you don’t have a will or living trust, you can create these documents with companies like Trust & Will)
- “Payable on death” (POD) bank and savings accounts
- 401(k), IRA, ROTH IRA, or other retirement accounts
Remember that small moves can go a long way
This money to do shouldn’t burden you or make you want to run and hide. The checklist consists of small, yet important, tasks that can be completed in 10 minutes here or half an hour there, and before you know it, you can have the entire list completed. It’s all about finding a rhythm that works for you and one that will keep you motivated to go through the checklist with ease.
Shannah Compton Game is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional with an MBA and hosts the award-winning podcast, Millennial Money, where she shares totally relatable and easy-to-understand financial advice that will actually make you want to talk about money. Opinions expressed by the author are their own.
Haven Life does not provide tax, legal or investment advice. This discussion is intended for general education purposes only. We encourage you to work with your own personal tax or legal experts and your financial advisor. Individuals involved in the estate planning process should work with an estate planning team, including their own personal legal or tax advisors.