Fall is a great time to refresh, renovate and revive financial plans

By James Preston, Senior Director of Development, MU Office of Gift Planning and Endowments

As I sit in my cubicle surrounded by boxes, waiting for the painters and carpet layers to come, I look at my workspace and think it can best be described as gotten “long in the tooth.” I am reminded that everything needs refreshing, renovation, or even reviving now and then. Back to school time is when many people start to get reorganized after a busy summer. It is a good time to look around my financial house and consider what needs refreshing, what needs renovating and what needs reviving.

Get your financial house in order: Refresh

The third quarter of the year is a perfect time to see if that budget plan started in January is working. Do a quick calculation of the average monthly expenses of variable line items such as groceries or entertainment and make sure you are spending within your budget. Make the adjustments now so that you end the year on course.

Get your financial house in order: Renovate

A few months ago, I was working in the basement sorting through the accumulated clutter and discovered boxes of tax receipts going back 15 years. It is always a good idea to keep copies of your filed tax returns and supporting documents for a period of time as a part of your system of records. According to the IRS, you should keep copies of your filed tax returns because they help in preparing future tax returns and making computations if you file an amended return. The length of time you should keep a document depends on the action, expense or event that the document records. Generally, you must keep your records that support an item of income or deductions on a tax return until the period of limitations for that return run out” (http://1.usa.gov/1q2Kcui). The recommended length for keeping tax receipts may range from two years to indefinitely depending on the circumstances.

While you are purging files, review your system. Are you storing important documents in a place where they will stay protected from moisture or other hazards? Do you have a system that lets you access receipts efficiently if you need them? Each year, I get a cardboard accordion file box to store my receipts through the year. You can pick one up at any office supply store for about $10. At the end of the year and after I do my taxes, I place copies of my filed tax returns and supporting receipts and documents in the box, write the tax year on the box and place it on a shelf in my basement set aside for such storage.

Get your financial house in order: Revive

Now is a good time to ask yourself if you need to revive the plans you made to create or update your estate plan. Everyone needs an estate plan and certain life events remind us how important having a good plan can be to our wellbeing. Start a list of the things you want to accomplish with your plans, or what you need to review existing plans. Check to make sure your beneficiary designations are still current. Make an appointment to interview an attorney if you need to draft a trust or will. There are lots of resources for such things on the Missouri Bar website if you have questions about what to do. Remember to include the organizations and charities you supported during your lifetime when you decide about the distribution of your estate.

Enjoy the remainder of the year and make the most of the time you have to get your financial house in order.