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Family Finance

Keep your finances on track with a mid-year review

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07/01/2008 - It's hard to believe that tax season has come and gone and we're almost halfway through the year. With April 15 still fresh in your mind, take the time now to perform a quick mid-year financial review. Not only will this simple practice help you get a grip on your year-to-date spending, earnings and savings, it could also help you feel more confident and in control of your financial destiny.

If you have a financial advisor, it is a good idea to meet with him/her if you haven't otherwise planned to do so. If you're conducting your mid-year financial checkup yourself, begin by examining how much you spent in the first six months of the year. Have you stayed within your budget? Where did you over spend? You may need to make adjustments for changing circumstances. For example, rising fuel and grocery costs are creating havoc on households across America. If gas is consuming too much of your budget, consider car pooling, getting a more fuel-efficient car or going out less to reduce your fuel consumption. Putting the brakes on runaway spending now can help you steer your budget back into the sane lane for the remainder of the year.

Once you have a handle on your 2008 expenses, look closely at your earnings. Are you bringing in the income you expected or have you experienced a layoff—an all-too-common event as American businesses respond to the tightening economy? As the unemployment rate climbed to 5.1 percent in April, many have felt the financial squeeze. You may also consider adding a part-time job to your calendar to bring in supplemental income and help fund your short- and long-term goals. If you are self employed or rely on commissions, it's especially important to keep an eye on your year-to-date earnings, to avoid big surprises at tax time.

Next, take a look at your savings and investments. Have you set aside enough money since January 1 — either through payroll deductions or in a savings account —to be on schedule to satisfy the tax bill you expect at the end of the year? Have you established or added to your emergency fund? Are you contributing the maximum amount to your 401(k) at work and taking advantage of employer matching contributions? Are you on track with saving for the kids' college? Don't forget the fun stuff either. Even if you can only spare a small amount each month, make sure you save something for special purchases such as a vacation or new sporting equipment for the kids.

To be sure, the questions you ask yourself in a mid-year review can be best answered in a conversation with a financial advisor to help determine how to reach your financial goals. Your finances are too important to leave to chance and too much can happen over the course of a year to allow your financial health to go unattended for more than six months at a time.

This information is provided for informational purposes only. The information is intended to be generic in nature and should not be applied or relied upon in any particular situation without the advice of your tax, legal and/or your financial advisor.

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