By Gary Foreman
When I worked in the corporate world the annual performance
review was always important. Not only was it a way of telling how I was doing
compared to what my employer expected, but it was also a good opportunity to
identify areas where improvements could be made. Sometimes I agreed with the
boss' comments. But, there were other times that I really thought that I could
have done a better evaluation myself.
The concept of an annual review can be helpful in your financial
life, too. There are certain things that you should evaluate on a regular basis.
And it's also a good idea to look at your own performance periodically. Most of
us have some areas where we could do better if we're willing to make minor
changes. So let's perform an annual review of our finances. In this case you'll
be reviewing yourself. So if you don't like the score you get you'll know
exactly where to go to complain!
Have you reviewed your auto insurance within the last year? As
your cars and family grows older your needs will change. And, you might find a
better rate by shopping around. 3 points for checking for appropriate coverage
and comparing rates. 1 point for checking either. 0 points for thinking that
your brother-in- law the insurance agent is taking care of it!
Have you reviewed your homeowner's insurance in the last two
years? While not as likely to change as your auto policy, homeowner's coverage
still needs to be reviewed periodically. 3 points if you reviewed it this year.
1 point if you reviewed it the year before. 0 points for thinking that you only
need to look at your homeowner's policy when you buy a new home.
How much money do you owe? An easy way to measure your economic
well-being is to see if you owe more or less money than you did last year. 3
points for reducing your total debt by 10% or more. 2 points for reducing it by
5 to 10%. 1 point for reducing it by 1 to 5%. 0 points if it remained the same.
Minus 1 point if the amount you owe went up.
How is your debt structured? Generally borrowing to buy
something that will hold it's value (like a house) isn't as bad as borrowing for
something that will be gone long before the payments are (like a pizza). 3
points if you don't owe any money to anyone. 2 points if you only owe money on
your home. 1 point if you owe on your house and car. 0 points if you owe on a
credit card or personal loan. Minus 1 point if you owe money to everyone in your
Did you add to your retirement savings last year? Each year
brings you that much closer to retirement. And, the magic of compounding means
that a dollar saved for retirement in your 20's is much more valuable than a
dollar saved in your 50's. So every year counts. 3 points if you saved 4% of
your salary or more last year. 2 points if you saved 2 to 4% of your salary. 1
point if you saved 1% of your salary. 0 points if you didn't add anything to
your retirement accounts. Minus two points if you borrowed from your retirement
plan last year.
Have you reviewed your investments in the last year? You don't
need to be a Wall Street wizard to know that today's investment climate changes
quickly. That means that you need to look at your investment position regularly
to see if adjustments are required. It's tempting to focus on whether you made
money since your last review. Yes, that's something that you should check. But,
the more important question is are you positioned for the future? Do you need to
make any changes now? 3 points if you reviewed your investments at least once
each quarter. 1 point if you reviewed them at least once during the year. 0
points if your account statements are stacked on your desk waiting for you to
look at them.
So how did you do? If you scored 15 or more you really have
things under control. You're probably only reading this because it's after-hours
and you can't call your broker or insurance agent at this time!
A score of 10 to 14 points indicate that you're trying, but
still need a little work to be a personal finance pro. If you scored between 5
and 9 points you probably need to pay more attention to your finances. And if
you scored less than 5 points make sure that your rich uncle has included you in
his will. You'll need the cash!
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who currently edits
The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters. You'll find thousands
of time and money saving articles.