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COLUMN: Tis the season for a financial check-in

Gregory Mattacola
Sentinel columnist
Posted 8/23/22

There has always been something about September looming on the horizon that kicks me into a higher gear.

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COLUMN: Tis the season for a financial check-in

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There has always been something about September looming on the horizon that kicks me into a higher gear. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I believe, no matter our age or phase in life, we all, to some degree, still operate on a school calendar. We shed the summer vibe and start attacking the day with a higher intensity. I personally love it. It isn’t that I’m not sad to see summer subside, but with the new season comes a reset, a rebirth of sorts. And of course, this year, it’s going to bring on the impending world championship for the Buffalo Bills. Hide your folding tables because it’s coming. But, I digress.

As this seasonal reset begins to take place, it is a perfect time to do a vital check on your finances and see where you stand. You may have set some goals at the beginning of the year. Perhaps you got sidetracked. It could have been an unexpected medical issue that required significant out-of-pocket costs. Or maybe you just vacationed a little too exorbitantly this summer. No matter. Whether it’s fitness, nutrition, organization or finances, we all sometimes find ourselves off the path we first set out on without a clear map as to how to get back on. We are all human.

When this happens, don’t be embarrassed or avoid seeking help. The most accomplished individuals on the globe have testified to the importance of utilizing coaches, mentors, and professionals in other disciplines to help them achieve their goals. There is no weakness in asking for help, only strength.

As you do this financial check, here are some general guidelines to help you find your way back. I chose four because, in numerology lore, the number four speaks to stability, a disciplined process, and solid construction. And that is exactly what we need to achieve our financial goals. Deep, right?

First, go back to the basics. What is your income, net, every month? What are your expenses – both required and discretionary? In other words, what’s coming in and where’s it going? Is there any surplus there, or are you dipping into savings to support your spending or, worse, ringing up credit card debt?

Second, what’s the health of your emergency fund? Does it equal 3-6 months of vital expenses? If not, that is going to be a crucial area in need of attention. The emergency fund allows for emergencies without forcing us to pull out the credit card.

Third – is there high-interest credit card debt? Nothing makes me crazier than ATM fees (you charge us to get our own money?) and high-interest credit card debt. If the credit card debt is there, we need to look at where we can cut spending to stop its accrual and then eliminate it. We are going to dial our scopes in and take it off the board because it’s a financial terrorist. It needs to go.

Fourth – once we’ve addressed all the above – we look at the investments. Are you achieving your full employer max on your 401K? Are you maxing out tax-advantaged investment options? Is there still money left over after that? If so, there are additional investment options to take advantage of.

You don’t want to go into the holidays feeling unfit or broke because they will undoubtedly make both worse – if you don’t have a plan. Now’s the time to make that plan. And the progress might be slow. I listened to a podcast recently by two gentlemen I know and respect, and they talked about how the fitness challenge you have ahead of you is like a pile of dirt you need to move. Some days you move it with a shovel, other days you use a spoon. But the most important thing is that every day you move it. You keep moving forward. It’s the same with finances. Let’s get shoveling.

Original content provided by Gregory Mattacola, Esq., CFP, Lead Adviser at Strategic Financial Services. Content is provided for educational purposes only and should not be used as the basis upon which to make an investment or financial decisions. Investments involve risk and, unless otherwise stated, performance is not guaranteed. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.

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