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Personal Financial Planning: The Importance of Reviewing Your Finances Regularly

Personal Finance
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Woman researching apps on her smartphone for personal financial planning.

Do you review your personal finances regularly? If you want to help take your personal finances to the next level, consider touching base with your finances on a regular basis to better understand where you are and what you need to do to get to where you want to be. Again, it's all about being proactive — as opposed to fixing your finances only after something goes wrong.

With that said, consider setting up monthly or quarterly check-ins so you can take action and optimize your budget.

Choosing Monthly Financial Reviews

It could make the most sense to go over all your bank-account and credit-card transactions each month. Review your spending and make adjustments as necessary, like cutting back in a certain area of spending or canceling a subscription you no longer use.

Evaluate the health of your cash flow: Are you spending more than you make? Do you have money left over at the end of every month? If none of your income is going toward a savings vehicle of some kind, this may be another sign you'll want to adjust your monthly spending habits.

Write down any major questions you come up with that will demand research or expert advice to answer, such as investment decisions. Then identify specific steps you'll need (or want) to take over the next 30 days to help make a positive impact on your personal financial planning.

Choosing Quarterly Financial Reviews

Take a look at your retirement plans and investment accounts so you understand how they've changed and where you may want to make changes of your own, such as increasing your contributions or restructuring your retirement plan.

Take note of any variable or one-time expenses coming up — like a vacation or a down payment on a major purchase — then break those down and add a line item in your monthly budget to help ensure you have the money on hand when the time comes.

Evaluate progress toward mid- and long-term goals like debt repayment. You may find you need to reallocate money after accomplishing a major goal, such as paying off student loan debt, or that your priorities have changed and you may need to set entirely new goals.

Try to address any miscellaneous housekeeping items, like updating your online account passwords for ongoing security, at least quarterly (if not monthly).

Any Other Periodic Financial Concerns?

In addition to these periodic items, there may be some specific events throughout the year you may want to address in one of your reviews.

Open enrollment is a big annual financial event that many people plan for. It's the one time each year you can make adjustments to benefits and policies like health insurance, barring qualifying events like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child or a death in the family.

Because open enrollment only takes place once a year, it's important to know when it happens and to plan ahead for it. That's why these periodic reviews can be so helpful — they give you an organized way to catch the once-a-year or random occurrences you might otherwise forget about and help you plan for them in advance.

You might also find it's time to update your account beneficiaries or net worth as a result of these regular check-ins.

What Resources Are Available to Help?

It could be easier to keep up with monthly or quarterly personal financial planning if you put a few useful tools to work for you. Bill management apps, for example, can automate some of your monthly to-dos. You can also set up automated contributions to savings, investments and retirement plans.

Apps that aggregate your financial accounts can help you monitor spending, analyze transactions and keep up with your budget. To-do trackers and task managers may also help ensure you follow through on actions you need to take between your reviews.

Plenty of banks and financial institutions offer apps and tools as well that you might find useful. Ask your financial institutions what resources they offer and make use of them if they'll help you stay on track.

The most important tool you can use, however, is the review itself. Periodically reviewing your finances, whether it's monthly or quarterly, can help put you in the driver's seat of your long-term finances.

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