Financial Planning

yourFINANCIAL Checklist

DATE | 11/08/23
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Life can be stressful, but preparing for your financial future doesn’t have to be. Stay organized and on track with this financial checklist.

If you feel daunted by the idea of starting a financial plan, or need to update a current one, open yourself up to learning and doing. Having a solid financial plan could make a big difference to your current and future financial security. Member Benefits can make the task easier by providing guidance and answering questions you may have. 

Take a look at some items to consider adding to your checklist to get yourself and your family on the right financial track. And remember—no one ever regretted saving more instead of less. 

If you haven’t started saving for retirement yet

Why start saving

Don’t think you have enough money to save for retirement? Then you might be surprised to learn that saving a small amount can make a big difference later on due to compound interest.

Compounding is when earnings on your investments are reinvested in your account. The reinvested earnings may also have earnings, and then those earnings are reinvested, and so on.

Optimize the impact of compounding by saving as soon as you can to lengthen your timeline. Making regular contributions through payroll deduction or monthly automatic withdrawals from a checking or savings account makes it easy to do. And with Member Benefits, no large amount is required like with many other providers.

Open a 403(b) account

Your 403(b) is an employer-sponsored plan. If you haven’t opened an account yet, contact us. Member Benefits is an approved vendor at 98% of the school districts in Wisconsin, so chances are we are an option at your school.

Enroll online or give us a call. Once enrolled, you’ll need to fill out a Salary Reduction Agreement (SRA) and submit it to your district’s benefits manager or payroll coordinator authorizing them to withhold and forward money from your paycheck to your 403(b). Some districts have their own SRA, or we can provide you with one if not.

Increase your retirement contributions

Already saving for retirement in a 403(b) account? Great! Consider how much you can afford to save in your 403(b), then check on contribution limits. Give yourself a raise this year by completing a new SRA.

Review your retirement savings plan

Your current investment allocations

When was the last time you reviewed the investment allocations in your retirement savings account? You may want to change your level of risk.

If you’re worried that your investment allocations are not appropriate for your goals or retirement timeline, make a date with one of our financial advisors for guidance.

Review pre-tax vs Roth deferral options to the 403(b)

Some districts offer the Roth option in their 403(b) plan. Consider whether Roth contributions make sense for your situation. Contributions to a Roth 403(b) can help diversify tax liability in retirement, as most other sources of income will likely be taxed as regular income.

However, be aware that when you make changes from pre-tax contributions to Roth deferrals, it could impact your tax return.

Review beneficiaries

If you’ve experienced any life events (marriage, divorce, birth of a child, etc.) it’s time to update your beneficiaries.

Without careful consideration, your decision may have unexpected tax and estate planning implications. Beneficiaries named on your retirement account supersede your will. Be sure to review your designations annually to ensure they are current and in line with your intentions.

Use our online resource

Update your address, review your portfolio, or change your investment allocations online on your time. Visit yourMONEY to make changes to your account, or make an appointment to meet with one of our financial advisors for assistance.

Create or update your budget

Many people don’t have a budget, but having one is a key component of any financial plan. You can’t have a plan without having a clear understanding of what money is coming in, what is going out, and where it’s going to. It requires an investment of time up front and requires you to face the good and the bad of your financial situation. But the pay off and benefits are long lasting.

The basics of making a budget are relatively simple. The process includes:

  • Gathering all your financial information together.
  • Determining where all your money is going.
  • Comparing your total expenses to your total income.

Developing a budget can be an empowering experience that can help you take control of your finances. Use our budget worksheet and financial calculators as a guide.

Are you within five years of retirement?

It’s even more critical to have a budget if retirement is on your horizon. This is a perfect time to look at your current expenses to see how much your pension will cover in retirement.

Make an appointment with one of our financial advisors to review your accounts, pension, Social Security, budget, and future financial needs. We have several options to choose from. Book early for Christmas break and spring breaks.

Utilize your district’s benefits

Go automatic

Make saving for retirement easy with automatic payments. Automatic payments such as payroll deducted contributions and scheduled electronic transfers from a checking or savings account not only help build your savings, but make it more affordable because you are budgeting for smaller regular amounts.

Utilize your flexible spending account

Reduce your taxes by utilizing your district’s flexible spending account (FSA). If your employer offers an FSA (and/or health savings account), you can elect to put pretax dollars aside to cover the cost of eligible healthcare and dependent care expenses.

Review your post-employment benefits

Health insurance is the key determining factor when someone retires. Knowing this information ahead of time will help you plan while you are still employed.

If you’re allowed to bank your sick leave for the future, this benefit may make it easier to retire before you are eligible for Medicare. Compensation from unused time could be used as a cash payment, additional 403(b) contributions, or payment toward health insurance coverage in retirement.

Your kids can save, too

Children with jobs

If your teen is working, they can open up an IRA. Low tax brackets are perfect for Roth IRA contributions.

College age children

Give them a head start on good financial habits by setting them up with a budget. An easy way to do it could be save a third, spend a third, give a third.
Many college students have part-time jobs and can continue saving in an IRA.

Personal insurance: Part of your financial plan

Many people don’t consider insurance as part of their budget, but insurance is key to your financial well-being and an important part of your financial plan. Protect yourself appropriately with auto insurance, renters/home/condo insurance, liability (umbrella) insurance, and more.

Liability insurance protects you when the unexpected happens by providing protection above and beyond your existing home and auto insurance policies. A liability policy can help protect your retirement assets.

Life insurance coverage helps those who are dependent on your income should the worst happen, and is an important part of your family’s financial stability and well-being.

If you ever need long-term care, you will pay the costs from your personal savings and assets unless you have long-term care insurance. Eileen Dunn from Associates of Clifton Park provides free one-hour webinars discussing options for elder care, the role state and Federal programs play in long-term care, and types of long-term care insurance available. Visit our long-term care insurance page for dates.

Learn more about all of our insurance options.

It’s a family thing

Don’t forget that your family members may also be eligible to participate in many of Member Benefits’ great programs!

This includes our IRA program*, financial planning services, and many of our insurance options.

Family members can contact us directly at 1-800-279-4030.

Restrictions may apply. Certain state residency required. Call us for details. Family members, including your spouse or domestic partner, children and their spouses, parents, and parents-in-law, may also be eligible to participate in many of our programs. Restrictions may apply. Certain state residency required.
*To be eligible for this program, you must meet the IRS eligibility requirements for contributing to an IRA.