Finance

Five Smart Fall Money Moves

Smart Fall Money Moves

Fall is a favorite season for many people, myself included. The changing colors, carving pumpkins with scary faces and kids in costumes, shouting of trick or treat, make it a fun time of year. It is also a great time to review your financial foundation and make any necessary changes.

5 Smart Fall Money Moves

The upcoming weeks generally get pretty hectic for most families, so let’s make a few smart money moves before all the Fall and Holiday festivities completely take over your life.

Review Your Employee Benefits

Open enrollment frequently happens in the Fall. Often times we automatically reenroll in the plans we participated in the past year. However, before you do that this year, I suggest you spend a few minutes reviewing how well you took advantage of the Company benefits offered to you. Are you under-or-over-using your healthcare and dental plans? You may also want to compare the price of your medical plan against what your state now offers too.

If you have a flexible spending account, it’s a good time to review it and plan to use any remaining funds by the year-end. Also, think ahead and plan for any extra expenses you anticipate for the next year (i.e. child getting braces, a new baby etc.) and consider whether you need to increase or decrease the amount you set aside. And may I suggest, if you find you are overfunding your flexible spending account that you redirect the extra money to your 401k or some other savings vehicles, such as a 529 plan for your child’s college education, rather than putting the money back into your paycheck.

Review Your 401k

Now is the perfect time to review your latest 401k statement and see if you need to make any changes. While I don’t believe you should make knee-jerk reactions to the market, you still need to do your due diligence. Examine your investments and see if any have been consistently underperforming. Do a little research and decide whether this is just a normal bump in the road or if it’s time to select another investment.

From a big picture perspective—are you still on track to retire on your target date? You may need to increase your retirement savings, whether it’s through increasing your 401k contributions or adding other investments. This is also an excellent time to review your beneficiary forms and make any needed changes as well.

Plan a Holiday Budget

Christmas will be here before you know it, so now is the time to crunch some numbers and see what you can afford to spend this holiday season. A lot of people skip this step and put everything on their credit card, which means starting the New Year with new debt. Figure out your plans for the holidays, including travel, food and gifts now to avoid regret in January.

Create Your Gift-Giving List

In conjunction with your holiday budget, you need to create a list of everyone you plan to give a gift to this Christmas. Remember, gift-giving is optional. I know there is pressure to buy everyone a present, but it is a choice. Put a dollar amount beside each individual on your list and don’t permit yourself to exceed the amount. A few extra dollars here and there may not seem like a big deal, but it adds up quickly. More importantly, once you start spending more than you planned, it’s easy to discard your budget and just spend freely. Also keep in mind that while kids really enjoy receiving presents, your friends may prefer skipping the gift exchange this year and just getting together for a meal or coffee after the holidays.

Plan for 2014

I know there is so much going on right now, but if you can take a few minutes to plan for 2014, it will make it so much nicer when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. So let’s start with the fun stuff, plan your vacation(s) for the next year. Not only will be you able to ensure the time off from work, you can also start saving your money for your trip(s) and have something fun to look forward to as well. Plus, you’ll have a better answer than “We can’t afford it” when your kids ask you for things. Now to the less fun part—taxes. Yes, April 15 is months away, but double check to make sure there aren’t any moves you can do before the end of the year to lower the amount of taxes you owe, such as charitable donations, funding a traditional IRA, selling poor-performing investments, etc.

Shannon

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October 14, 2013  •  67 Comments  •  Finance

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  1. Monday, October 14th, 2013
    Fall used to be my "wait for the bonus" quarter, so putting in the extra work to get a raise the next year and a nice bonus. With the days getting shorter it was exhausting but worth the effort.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 14th, 2013
      Sounds like it was a good plan. Make sure you shine before year-end reviews and raises for the next year. Extra money is always welcome in my book!
  2. Monday, October 14th, 2013
    These are all great tips Shannon! April 15th may seem like it's a long way away, but it'll be here before you know it and we're starting to plan for it already. I think the 401k is a great one as well. I always set a time near the end of the year to review our IRA accounts and determine what, if any, rebalancing needs to be done and where it stands in relation to where I want it to be.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 14th, 2013
      Thanks, John! People sometimes forget that finances need to be regularly reviewed and assessed. It's not a one and done type of thing! :) Sounds you have a good plan in place to review your investments and make sure you're on track to reach your goals.
  3. Monday, October 14th, 2013
    With fall falling on the final quarter of most people's financial years, its certainly a time for reflection not only on the financial goals set out at the beginning of the year but also on those financial moves that ought to be made before the end of the year.
    This year am hoping I can get the Christmas gifts ready way before the rush starts...something I can definitely plan for earlier.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 14th, 2013
      Absolutely, Simon. It's a great time to review your goals and see how you're pacing. This way you can make adjustments for next year too. Christmas always comes so fast but I like to avoid the crowds whenever possible too!
  4. Monday, October 14th, 2013
    Awesome tips, Shannon! I always wait till the last minute before doing this stuff, but thanks to this list, I will work on this TODAY!
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 14th, 2013
      Thanks, Laurie! Oh, it's so easy to put things off and before you know it - it's 2014! :) Happy to help and hopefully you made some smart money moves today!
  5. Corina Ramos
    Monday, October 14th, 2013
    This is a great reminder Shannon!

    Our benefits are paid for by my husband's job so we really lucked out on that one and our 401K is up-to-date.

    I always have a budget for the holidays starting with Halloween. All the decorations and costumes can add up if there isn't a budget to follow.

    I haven't started planning for 2014 but I know I have to soon with a senior in the house. I have graduation and prom not to mention college....girl, I'm already tired, LOL.

    Great post Shannon! Have a great new week hon :).
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 14th, 2013
      Thanks, Corina! It is so easy to get carried away when you don't have a budget. Things do add up quickly! :) Oh my - 2014 looks like it will be a busy - and expensive - year for you. But also a lot of fun too! It's smart to plan ahead so you can enjoy it, rather than worry about paying for everything. You have a great week too, my friend!
  6. Monday, October 14th, 2013
    I have started making some more plans these weeks and re-thinking my strategies when it comes to money. I love having some time and drive to re-asses our finances, see what works OK etc.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 14th, 2013
      Absolutely, Dojo. Taking that time to review your goals and progress is so important. Lots of people unfortunately skip this step, then wonder why they are not on track to achieve their goals. Setting goals isn't enough, unfortunately. You definitely need to review and make adjustments, so I'm glad to hear that you take the time to do this important step.
  7. Monday, October 14th, 2013
    These are all great things to think about. We are starting to really think about 2014, but there are so many unknowns!
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 14th, 2013
      You've had some big, exciting changes recently, Michelle and I imagine it's an adjustment for you! It is always a bit harder to plan when things are in flux but you're so on top of everything that I know you'll be fine. :)
  8. Monday, October 14th, 2013
    Great tips Shannon! Planning your holiday budget in advance is very important especially if you purchase gifts for a number of people and have holiday parties.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 14th, 2013
      Thanks, Sicorra! I enjoy giving gifts but without a list, I would lose track of who I need to buy presents for, which means rushing out last minute and possibly spending more than I should! :) I love the holidays but it can get out of control if you don't pay attention. My budget helps keep me honest. :)
  9. Monday, October 14th, 2013
    Fall is my favorite time of year to be outside, but you're absolutely right that it's important to handle some of these more administrative tasks as well. Planning ahead for the holidays is something I've never been very good at. Maybe it's time to get my butt in gear.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 14th, 2013
      I love Fall too, Matt. Those administrative tasks aren't always the most exciting thing to do on a lovely Fall afternoon, but they are important. And thankfully, don't eat up too much time. :) I think the holidays sneak up on a lot of people! It's definitely makes life a little less crazy.
  10. Monday, October 14th, 2013
    A holiday budget is a great idea!! I feel like it's never too early to start one!!
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 14th, 2013
      Thanks, Cat! No, I don't think you can start planning for the holidays too early! :)
  11. Monday, October 14th, 2013
    Great tips. I can attest to the create your "gift list" early piece. My wife and I consistently do this and shop throughout the year when we stumble upon really good deals. Totally removes a lot of the stress about gift giving and lets us focus on the good stuff come December.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 14th, 2013
      Thanks, Kyle! That's a great idea to have your list ready at the start of the year so you can pick things as you find them. Alleviate stress and save money - that's a win-win in my opinion! Plus, I bet it does make it easier to actually enjoy the holidays when you're not running around at chaotic stores trying to find presents!
  12. Monday, October 14th, 2013
    Starting to think ahead for 2014 is a great idea. Sometimes people just hit the next year without any financial plan and their tax bill and holiday money hangover hit them right in the face. Thanks for the reminder Shannon.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 14th, 2013
      As hard as it can be at times, you do always need to be looking forward. Too many people are hit with the one/two punch of holiday bills and their tax bill. A few minutes now can help make life a lot easier. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Joel. I appreciate it!
  13. Monday, October 14th, 2013
    I think the big one for me this fall is planning 2014. My holidays are pretty quiet and I have a small family, so things slow way down for me this time of year, which is the opposite of most people. I use this time to reflect and plan. Hoping for even better things next year!
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 14th, 2013
      Sounds like a great plan, Tonya. Having a plan in place for 2014 will help you hit the ground running on January 1st. I have no doubt that 2014 will be even better for you!
  14. Monday, October 14th, 2013
    Very good point about the flex account. We inevitably get people who wait until the last week of December and need to get in and spend flex dollars. Now, I like to help them with that as much as possible, but you can only do so many appointments in a day. I'd love to take out a billboard telling patients to get in before the end of the year!
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 14th, 2013
      Flex accounts are great but people do have the tendency to wait until the last possible moments to empty out their account. Maybe you should take out a billboard. It would be a good business expense and nice public service announcement. :)
  15. Monday, October 14th, 2013
    The employee benefits is extremely important as open enrollment is limited. I'm still debating if I should cancel my insurance as I am on my wife's one.
    • Shannon
      Monday, October 14th, 2013
      I agree, Charles. That window is small and it's important to take the time to review your choices and make sure your maximizing your benefits. Too many people just reenroll without doing their due diligence and end up spending more money than they need to do.
  16. Monday, October 14th, 2013
    Really solid list here Shannon! I definitely plan on reviewing my benefits, 401k, etc., as well as planning for 2014. So much to do, so little time!
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
      Thanks, DC! Time is always an issue but it's definitely worth finding the time. And it can actually be fun too. :)
  17. Monday, October 14th, 2013
    Great advice! We always have an idea of our next year's (and often two year's) vacations so we can plan. It may not be booked, but we know how much we anticipate we need. Makes it a non issue when the time comes bcs we have saved for it!
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
      We do the same. You can really enjoy a vacation when you don't have to worry about how you're going to pay for it. It really takes the enjoyment out of it for me. Plus, it gives all of us something to look forward to as well.
  18. Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
    I definitely need to start budgeting for Christmas. With our move and everything, it's been on the back burner. It will start creeping up on us soon enough!
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
      You've had a lot on your plate this month, Holly. :) The holidays will be here before you know it. Hopefully things will settle down for you in the next week or two!
  19. Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
    Great list Shannon! I'm guilty of a couple of these – mainly not using my employee benefits enough. We pay into it, may as well take advantage of the benefits that are offered to us. And although we manage our day-to-day finances pretty well, reassessing our investments and retirement accounts seem to always escape us. Maybe it's time to task someone to help us with that.
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
      A lot of people miss out on some of the perks their employers offer so it's a good time to review them during open enrollment. With a new baby, you definitely want to reviews beneficiary forms, review insurance policies along with your investments. :)
  20. Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
    Great list, Shannon, and I couldn't agree more with putting big health expenses into flex spending - I saved so much when I got adult braces a few years ago. Thanks for the reminder, too, about checking on my retirement accounts and planning for 2014. I've had to indirectly do so to balance wedding and life expenses/savings, but complete it to go through the entire year. :)
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
      Flex accounts can definitely be helpful, especially for those big expenses that we know we have coming up. You've got a lot of exciting things happening in 2014, Anna! A good plan will help make it a little bit less stressful for you. :)
  21. Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
    I think it is great to review your employee benefits...I think many people don't take advantage of them. I'm trying to figure how much to put into my flex spending accounts. It really does save a lot. It pains when people have these benefits and don't use them!
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
      We often don't take full advantage of our employee benefits so it definitely pays to take some time to review them. I don't like when people don't utilize their benefits either - they are leaving money on the table that could go instead go back in their paycheck.
  22. Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
    What a great list! I really need to check out my 401k plan, especially because they're removing certain funds. I'm usually guilty on the point of going over my budget for holiday gifts too.
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
      Thanks, Erin! Oh yes, you definitely want to review your 401k if they are changing funds around. I love to give gifts too and it's not always easy to stop myself from going overboard.
  23. Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
    Hey Shannon,

    You always share such wonderful advice here. I can't believe 2014 will be upon us soon. Oh my goodness, I can't believe it's fall already.

    Working for myself I'm so budget conscious it's not even funny. I don't spend a lot for Christmas and I've never been a big spender anyway. I know, I'm just cheap! lol.. That's a good thing though right! Yeah, you've heard this from me before.

    I don't think I can save more then I am right now but I know that there is always room for improvement.

    Thank you for sharing these reminders with us and have a great week.

    ~Adrienne
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
      Thanks, Adrienne! I appreciate your kind words. Being budget conscious is a good thing in my book! You have a great week too!
  24. Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
    Planning for 2014? Best tip, ever! Thanks, I am totally going to work on this :) I don't want to stress about what's coming up in the new year!
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
      Thanks, Mackenzie! I agree a little planning now can alleviate a lot of stress later and that is a good thing in my opinion!
  25. Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
    We've already started planning for 2014, especially for our vacation next summer. Saving a little bit each month now helps pay for the vacation without going into debt.
    • Shannon
      Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
      Absolutely, Brian! It makes it a lot easier when you save a bit every month for your vacation and makes it easier to enjoy your trip, knowing that it's paid for.
  26. Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
    very good thought about getting ready for the holidays.. i tell myself every year that i will set aside a Christmas budget.. and every year, i always forget!!
    • Shannon
      Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
      It's easy to forget to do with the busy lives we all lead! But I know for me, it helps me from overspending so I can enjoy giving gifts.
  27. Thursday, October 17th, 2013
    I'm creating a plan to try to max out my ROTH IRA before the end of the year. Happy fall :)
    • Shannon
      Thursday, October 17th, 2013
      Sounds like an excellent plan to me, Stefanie! Happy Fall to you too! :)
  28. Thursday, October 17th, 2013
    Great tips Shannon. I usually use spring to make some new financial moves but there is nothing to stop us from doing it at the start of every season
    • Shannon
      Thursday, October 17th, 2013
      Thanks, Robert! I agree - it doesn't really matter what season you review your finances as long as you do it. :)
  29. Friday, October 18th, 2013
    All of these are so important! I review my employee benefits every renewal period...this year would be especially important, I imagine, with all of the changes to health care!
    • Shannon
      Saturday, October 19th, 2013
      I'm glad to hear that you do. So many people just automatically enroll, without making sure there isn't a better option or to ensure they actually maximizing their benefits.
  30. Sunday, October 20th, 2013
    Hey Shannon! Thanks for these reminders! I have a flex spending account and I have to decide if I should be allocating my resources the same way. So far, I have waaay to much still sitting in my health spending account - I'll need to redirect to my RRSP's next year! Cheers.
    • Shannon
      Sunday, October 20th, 2013
      You're welcome, Lindsey! Flex spending accounts are great but it's not always easy figuring out how much to set aside. :)
  31. Saturday, November 2nd, 2013
    I discovered I love planning ahead and it's a great feeling when you know you can afford something because you have saved up for it! I use all of my employee benefits, it's amazing but some of my colleagues have no idea what they are entitled to! I'm due half of my "personal development" allowance in January and I cannot wait to start planning as to what I am going to do with it: I'm thinking an Italian language course! :P Great article, Shannon!
    • Shannon
      Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
      Me too, Eva! It does feel great when you can buy something you want and know that you're not creating debt and can just enjoy it. I'm glad to hear that you are fully utilizing your employee benefits. It surprises me how often people are unaware of their employee benefits and what they are leaving on the table, so to speak. I love that your Company supports personal development too! An Italian language course would be fantastic!
  32. Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
    Reviewing your 401k is a great idea to do, at minimum, once per year. Do you recommend that people rebalance on a more regular basis or is once per year enough?
Shannon Ryan SHANNON RYAN, CFP®
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan
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