Published September 29, 2017|7 min read
October: a time for evaluating and setting life goals. Said no one. Ever. Except for, of course, us. Right now. Because, LBH, waiting until January to turn over a new life-money-health-mind-body-leaf is like saying your diet starts on Monday. You’re just trying to not do it.
And lots of bad stuff can happen when you put things off or ignore them entirely. So, in the spirit of getting (or keeping) your act together, here’s 25 things you should check on the reg.
Keeping an eye on your credit report has always been important, because so many companies (lenders, insurers, cable companies, etc.) look at it when deciding to do business with you. But then Equifax went and had the worst data breach ever and, well, if you haven’t checked all your credit reports since Sept. 7, now’s the time to visit AnnualCreditReport.com — and do this other stuff, too.
Lest you want your car engine’s to eat itself. Old-school rules put regular oil changes at every 3,000 miles, but that’s … old school. Most modern engines can go 5,000 to 7,500 miles without one, per AAA. And, if your car drinks full-synthetic motor oil, you can probably go a full 15,000 miles without worrying about it. Check your owner’s manual to be sure.
Your risk tolerance — among other things — changes over time. And, while it’s best not to check a portfolio everyday (stocks, in particular, are a long game and all that looking will just stress you out), you can’t simply set and forget your investments until retirement either. Everyone’s different, but, per a paper from Vanguard, for most broadly diversified stock and bond fund portfolios, “annual or semiannual monitoring, with rebalancing at 5%” shifts helps control risk and minimize costs. Sounds confusing, we know, so talk to your financial adviser about what schedule works best for you.
Insurance is one of the easiest things on this list to straight up ignore. For starters, you only really use it in dire situations: a car crash, an illness, your untimely death. And no one wants to think about all the horrible stuff that could happen to them. Plus, it’s confusing. We can help right now with that last part. Our insurance checkup tool will help you figure out how much insurance you need and answer a lot of questions you might not think to ask. Like “should I get long-term care insurance?”
The American Heart Association recommends any adult age 20 or older get their cholesterol checked every four to six years. People with cardiovascular disease or higher risk of cardiovascular problems should get tested more often.
Prospective employers are increasingly looking at social media accounts when vetting candidates. And current employers have been known to fire employees who demonstrate they’re out of step with company values. So it’s good to periodically go through your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. to make sure you didn’t, you know, accidentally like porn or kinda-sorta declare war against another country in the wee hours of the morning.
Otherwise, you’ll own at least 13 umbrellas. And a bunch of sweaters, just for the office. And maybe a poncho. Or two.
Assuming you have one, of course. Which, if you don’t, well, then it’s time to make one! Once you have a money plan in place, monitor it month-to-month and adjust your spending accordingly. There are a bunch of money apps that can help you spot where you’re blowing your budget.
Commutes can make or break your day, so whether you’re driving, jumping on a train or taking the subway, check the traffic report before hitting the road. It’s worth the time saved by taking an alternate route.
An obvious one, perhaps. But it’s good to check bank and credit card accounts way more often than once a month. In fact, it’s a good idea to pop in there everyday. Why? Well, fraud is still a problem. Plus, what better way to keep on top of how much money is left in your account or whether you’re bumping up against your credit limit? And, bonus tip: You might notice some legitimate, but unnecessary recurring charges you can do away with. Like an old gym membership or magazine subscription that keeps re-upping itself. Speaking of subscriptions, it’s also a good idea to check …
How else will you know who keeps changing your review of Liam Neeson’s The Grey, amirite?
Sad fact of life: Data breaches happen all the time. And hackers get savvier and savvier by the day. That’s why it’s a good idea to routinely change the passwords guarding your online accounts. Think once a year … or after you get one of those data breach emails in the mail. Another bonus tip: While it’s certainly a pain, avoid using the same password across accounts. Otherwise, a thief who gets ahold of your log-in info, they could conceivably hack into multiple accounts.
Sure, it’s sweet to get a big tax refund each year. It also means you made an interest-free loan to Uncle Sam during those 12 long months. So it’s worth review (and reconsidering) your paycheck withholdings to get closer to an even exchange. Ditto if you owe the government a ton of money each tax year.
That moldy vegetable cream cheese from the Sunday Funday brunch you threw three months ago isn’t going to throw itself out.
Automatic bill pay is awesome in that it helps you avoid missed payments and late fees. But it’s also easy to miss bill creep. (No, it’s not just you. Your cable bill probably did unceremoniously go up.) Or erroneous fees and charges. Keep things automatic, for sure, but also open your paper or digital statements and give them a once over so you don’t wind up overpaying for services.
We know, we know: “You did this one already!” But hear us out — Your credit score, a numerical representation of what’s in your credit reports, doesn’t always come with one. In fact, if you’re getting your credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com, you’ll have to pay a nominal fee to see the digits associated with the information on file. Fortunately, these days, there are plenty of places that’ll furnish you with a free credit score. Lots of personal finance websites offer them and credit card issuers, too, are increasingly furnishing them to cardholders.
Checking your score is a good way to help you spot identity theft. (A sudden, unexpected drop is a big clue something’s gone amiss). But you also want to eye your credit score regularly because improvements can qualify you for all sorts of things: a better credit card, apartment or cellphone plan, for instance.
Regular air conditioner maintenance can lengthen the life of the machine and even lower your monthly utility bills. Per Energy.gov, replacing a gross old filter can lower your unit's energy consumption by 5% to 15%.
Yeah, we know, this one’s up there with thinking about insurance, but it’s still important. Time passes, things change and, suddenly, you might not want the same people inheriting your fortune that you did ten, five or even a year ago. Plus, you’ll want to make sure a loved one knows where all your important financial documents are in case something happens to you.
Dental insurance doesn’t exist for nothing! Colgate suggests visiting your dentist for a professional cleaning twice a year.
Flexible spending accounts, or FSAs, have become increasingly prevalent over the last decade, thanks to growing healthcare costs. (In other words, there’s a good chance you have one.) They help people with high-deductible health insurance plans cover out-of-pocket medical expenses — and save on their taxes, as contributions are deducted from your annual taxable income. But here’s the thing: Money in an FSA doesn’t carry over. At the end of each tax year, you lose whatever funds are leftover. So you’ll want to track how much money you have in the account throughout the year and if you need to adjust how much you contribute so you don't lose money. You can learn more about how FSAs work here.
Do they work? Are there batteries in them?
Yes, this technically rolls under investments, but when it comes to 401(k)s, you’ll want to regularly assess whether you can handle putting more on your paycheck into one. Especially if your employer offers a match. Otherwise, you’re leaving free money on the table.
Pets need health check-ups, too. Dogs, in particular, need booster vaccinations or regular heartworm treatments. So be sure to get your precious furbaby to the vet once a year.
Call mom and/or dad every now and then. They will love it.
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