Our personal finances obviously require attention all year long. However, there are certain times of the year I have picked to focus on certain things.
Spreading the work out in a routine and predictable manner helps me keep my sanity and assists in allowing completion of the tasks I plan to do.
For example, once a quarter, I review our asset allocation actuals against our target allocations and come up with a plan to discuss and implement based on the analysis. Another example is that once a month I calculate our net worth and review our discretionary spending budget vs. actuals.
Of course, there are some tasks that are dictated by others, such as when we must pay taxes or submit certain information to government entities.
During first quarter, I have historically chosen to perform the following tasks.
Update business records.
I have two LLCs, one for a vacation rental and the other for my online activities. Although I keep records throughout the year, January is the month in which I circle back to make sure I have recorded all income and expenses and filed all receipts. I clean up the electronic and paper files and start organizing the information our accountant will need to do our taxes.
Clean out and organize paper files for personal finances.
After 44 years of marriage, we have collected quite a bit of financial information. We do still get paper statements and we keep them as long as needed (so we know the cost basis). During the year, as we receive any financial information, it is filed in a folder for that institution/account. In January, I start going through it to organize it, discard (and burn) what we can and move old stuff to an archive to make way for the coming year’s information.
Update the household inventory.
In the past I have kept an electronic spreadsheet with information about our real property, such as household possessions, art work, vehicles, and etc. Although it took awhile to get it going, now all I have to do is add new stuff to it, and remove reference to anything we no longer own.
This year, however, I am going to start a video record for the inventory as an add on. I intend to start with the things we own that are most dear to us or of most importance in our family’s history.
I keep a copy at home, send a copy to each grown son and put a copy in the safe deposit box.
Keeping a household inventory not only helps us estimate our net worth, but will also be very important should catastrophe strike and when our heirs have to deal with our possessions.
Update my ‘locations’ document.
Our estate plan includes a trust for each of us. Our sons are our successor trustees. I try to prepare them for the inevitable by providing an updated ‘locations’ document each year to each of them. In it, I list all of our financial accounts, doctors, important documents and other things they would need to get to (such as life insurance companies) when we are both gone. I give the name of the item, the location, a contact number and an identifier for them to use when referencing it.
Keeping our successor trustees in the loop on our finances and estate plans helps ensure that our estate will be handled well on our deaths.
Update our marriage timeline document.
Because we have a long history together, sometimes we sit and scratch our heads over what happened when. As in, when did we last put on a new roof, or how long ago did we take that vacation to London or when did we redo the bathroom? Knowing when we last did something helps us plan for potential future expenses.
To help us keep track, I created a timeline of events during our married life. Each year I add to it, whatever we did that year, plus I put in a bit about world events to set the scene.
Perhaps someday I will also use it to help me write my autobiography.
Set financial goals for the year.
Of course, the first part of the new year is also a logical time to sit down and discuss what we are planning to do with our money and investments in the coming year. Our plans don’t always pan out, but at least we sit down to think through and talk about what we might or might not do.
What financial tasks do you undertake during first quarter?