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Time For A Fall Financial Review

The kids are back at school, fees have been paid, and the weather is getting crisp enough to pull out your sweaters.

For many, fall represents a new start, and it’s the perfect season to take stock of your finances.  You still have time to meet this year’s financial goals, and it’s a good time to start focusing on next year.        

Review your goals

Do your financial goals still make sense?  Make a list of your short-term and long-term objectives and see whether they still apply.  Consider whether it’s time to add new goals.

Your investment objectives and goals, as well as your portfolio, can be influenced by any number of events, whether in the markets or changes in your own life.

Related: 20 Simple Steps To Improve Your Finances

Some lifestyle changes include marriage or divorce, the birth of a child, a substantial change in income, approaching retirement, or even buying a home.  Will you need more security, income, or growth from your portfolio?

Do a portfolio checkup

Review the current status of your portfolio:

  • Are you contributing enough to your savings plans regularly?
  • Did your portfolio’s performance meet your expectations?  Are your expectations and targets reasonable and realistic?
  • Are you comfortable with the investments in your portfolio?
  • Is your portfolio adequately diversified?
  • Does it continue to meet your investment goals?

A survey done for a wealth management company revealed a significant gap between how Canadians think they are doing with regards to their retirement plans and the actual state of their plans.

The survey also asked Canadians how much they would need for a comfortable retirement.  16% of the respondents said that $100,000 in their RRSP would be sufficient.

Related: Why Baby Boomers Aren’t Prepared For Retirement

The reality is that $100,000 earning a respectable 6% annually would provide just $10,000 a year for 15 years.  When you consider that retirement could easily last 25 or 35 years that $100,000 nest egg is hardly comfortable.  If there will be little or no other income, it is seriously deficient.

It’s important to take a step back and re-evaluate where it is you want to go and your options to get there.

A fall review will give you lots of time to position your portfolio for the coming year.  Make sure your investments are on track and provide the diversification you need to reach your goals.

Keep up with any changes in investment rules – they are not carved in stone.  Past changes include changes in RRSP foreign content limits, increase in age to convert your RRSP to a RRIF, and changes to RESP grant money availability.

The tax treatment of investment income can also change.  For example, at one time up to $1,000 in interest income was tax-free and there was no tax on capital gains.  The introduction of TFSAs made a lot of people change their investment strategies.

Related: Using Tax Free Savings Accounts In Retirement

New investment products regularly become available that could benefit your portfolio.  Find out what they are.

Rebalance

Rebalancing is where you take action to make your portfolio work for your needs.  Investments fluctuate in value over time, even in non-volatile markets, and that can throw your asset mix out of balance.

You may need to rebalance annually, or even more frequently, to make sure that performance in any one area hasn’t moved your portfolio off course.  It’s also necessary when you add to, or withdraw from, your portfolio.

Keep in mind that short-term market events are not usually good reasons to alter your target asset mix.  If volatile markets cause you to move into lower-risk investments, you might be shortchanging your long-term goals and missing out on a chance to benefit when markets recover.

Related: Do Stock Market Cycles Influence Your Investing Behaviour

Plan ahead

Thank about your short term needs such as holiday shopping, travel or other major purchases.  Advance planning gives you time to get the cash together.

By taking certain actions before year-end, you may be able to cut your tax bill.  Tax credits or deductions may be available for such things as medical expenses, charitable and political contributions, tuition fees, childcare costs, and deductible professional fees if you pay them before year-end.

Organize your financial documents including banking and investment statements, and store them in a safe, accessible place.  It will make it easier to track, review and plan.  Make sure someone else (spouse, relative) knows where your records are kept.

Solutions

There are many online planning tools available to help you evaluate your goals, allocate your assets and calculate savings targets.

Related: How To Build A Better Budget

Whether you like to work with a professional or you’re a do-it-yourself investor it’s always a good idea to regularly review your financial goals and objectives, reassess your portfolio and rebalance as necessary.  Don’t just let your investments ride hoping all will work out.

Make sure your investment plan is on track.

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7 Comments

  1. W at Off-Road Finance on October 3, 2012 at 10:16 am

    I try to do this sort of review at least once a quarter. I have a spreadsheet that automatically generates my targets for trading income, savings, etc. so it’s pretty easy to compare the actual results to what I expected to happen.

    • Boomer on October 3, 2012 at 11:39 am

      @W at Off-Road Finance: It would be fabulous if more investors were as organized as you are. You are definitely in the minority. Good on you!

      • Joe on October 3, 2012 at 1:24 pm

        Yes, I must admit that my weakness is not in creating — or even following — a plan but in sitting down to actively review it.

  2. James on October 3, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    This is a great reminder that your finances aren’t going to take care of themselves, or rather they are better off if you actively take part. I would like to review my finances 3 times a year, but often times it ends up being once. I procrastinate reviewing my finances until after the great holiday splurge (as I call it) when my wife starts shopping in Oct and doesn’t stop until after New Year’s. Then we go on at least two family vacations and we host at least one large party during that time frame. By the end of January the damage is already done. You’ve inspired my to get a jump on it this year. . . I think I’ll start on Monday. . . Seriously though, if I would review them in the Spring and in the Fall, right before the two biggest spending seasons, our financial situation would be much better off.

    • Boomer on October 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      @James: When my children were young I had a period of expenses that stretched from September to the end of January – school and sports fees, car registration, house and car insurance and Christmas to name a few. Plus one major appliance always invariably broke down during that time, or I had some other big expense.

      It was fast and easy to do a financial review in each new year – I had no money left!

  3. krantcents on October 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Goals do not need a particular date to review. I routinely evaluate my progress all year long. It is sort of like starting a diet on Monday. There is nothing magical about Monday. Start now!

    • Boomer on October 4, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      @krantcents: Most people need the discipline to have a set time to review, whether at year end, in the spring or even on their birthday. Otherwise, if evaluating all through the year, there is the danger of over reacting to short term market conditions.

      When I review my finances a couple of times a year I very rarely make any changes. I do however evaluate my cash (from deposits and dividend payments) and look for suitable investments throughout the year, and I’ll follow any news that may affect my holdings.

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