Some basic money moves for the end of summer

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The winding down of sun and fun marks a good time to check on your financial health. Here are five important tactics for the rest of summer.

 

Have a personal balance sheet
This is easier than you think. On the left side of a piece of paper write “assets” and on the right side write “debt.” On the bottom,beach chairs and umbrellas write “what’s left.”
Under assets, list the value of your possessions, such as your 401(k) retirement plan or individual retirement account, your checking account, and the worth of your home. Under debts, list what you owe (loans, credit card balances and so forth).
Add up the assets and the debts separately. If your assets are bigger than your debts, put the difference under “what’s left.” Your goal over time is grow the assets column and decrease your debts.
Understand 401(k)
Your 401(k) likely will be your largest asset for the golden years.
Three primary components make up your retirement plan: your contribution rate, your allocation and your specific investments. You also want to determine whether your company offers a Roth 401(k) option, which can provide you with tax-free income in retirement.
The best way to understand your 401(k)? Call your plan provider. Most employees usually underutilize this (typically) free service.
Refinance high-interest debt
Interest rates are close to historic lows. If you pay a high interest rate on your mortgage, car loan or student debt, you can explore refinancing.
Many financial institutions will happily help you refinance, with hidden costs, of course. Make sure you understand how much lowering your rate costs. If you find high upfront fees, factor those into your decision. Going from a 4.85 percent mortgage interest rate to a 4.25 percent rate sounds appealing until the bank asks you to pony up $3,000 in fees.
Curb impulsive spending
I recommend the “72-hour test” from financial planner Carl Richards. Every time you are about to make a large purchase, stop and think about it for 72 hours. If after that time you still think you need to spend the money, go ahead.
Ignore investment chatter
When at a Labor Day barbecue, on vacation or playing golf with buddies, ignore unsolicited investment advice that comes your way.

© 2015 StarTribune by Grant Webster

Grant Webster is a San Diego wealth manager who writes for AdviceIQ.
Image courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net