Financial Security Index
Financial Security Index
smart spending
Americans review personal finances often

For instance, "How much money did you have in your bank account six months ago and one year ago: is there more or less now?" says Larry Rosenthal, CFP, president of Financial Planning Services in Manassas, Va.

Next, check your insurance: Do you have enough, and is it still appropriate for you? You'll need to evaluate all of your insurance policies including long-term care, disability, life insurance, property and casualty as well as health insurance.

Investments should also be investigated.

"How much have you gained or lost in the past 12 months?" Copelin says. "With our clients, we review investments and balance the amount that is in money market accounts, U.S. stocks, international stocks and so on," he says.

For most people, investing is synonymous with retirement planning, which is naturally an important component of a financial review.

Regularly evaluating your rate of savings and investment performance will allow you to adjust your plan. You may realize that extra savings or more aggressive investments are necessary to meet retirement goals.

Taxes make up another piece of a financial review: specifically, are there ways to pay less? Visit Bankrate's tax center to pick up tips on everything from itemizing deductions to tax credits.

Professional financial planners also review estate plans during regular evaluations, "to make sure that nothing has changed that would indicate that their will should be altered," says Copelin.

Though it doesn't need to be done on a regular basis, checking the beneficiaries on retirement accounts can be invaluable, particularly if you've gotten married, divorced or had children since the last time you thought about those beneficiary forms.

Technology to the rescue

Financial reviews can be massive undertakings and eat up several hours with tracking down statements and forms and compiling the data. But technology can make the process easier -- if you have 10 or so hours upfront to aggregate your financial life.

Chicago-based CFP Julie Murphy Casserly has found that people who frequently review their finances make use of software programs such as Quicken or websites such as

"Now all of their statements are uploaded into a system. You can pull your statements up once per quarter and say, 'OK, that looks right and that doesn't,' and tweak what you need to," she says.

No matter how it's done -- manually, digitally or some combination of the two -- keeping each element of your finances organized and up-to-date will serve you well in the long run.



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