It’s hard to believe that the first half of the year has come and gone already. We enjoyed having all three of our adult children home over the holiday weekend.
Mid-year is always a good time for a financial review and 2014 is no exception. So far in 2014:
- Various stock market indexes are at or near record high levels. The Bull Market in stocks celebrated its fifth anniversary earlier this year and through June 30 the S&P 500 Index is up 190% since the March 2009 lows.
- Bond funds and ETFs have surprised us by posting some pretty decent returns. This is contrary to what many expected, especially in the wake of weak performance in 2013.
- After largely not participating in the in the strong equity markets of 2013 REITS have been a top performing asset class YTD through the second quarter.
- Emerging markets equity lost money as an asset class in 2013 and has also staged a nice recovery YTD through the first half of 2014.
- Small cap stocks have underperformed so far in 2014 after a very outstanding 2013.
In just about any year at the midpoint there will be asset classes that outperformed and some that have underperformed expectations. That’s completely normal. As far as your mid-year financial review here are a few things to consider. These apply whether you do this yourself or if you are working with a financial advisor.
Review your financial plan
Whether you do this now or at some other point in the year you should review your financial plan at least annually. Given the robust stock market gains of the past five years this is a particularity opportune time for this review.
- How are you tracking towards your financial goals?
- Have your investment gains put you further ahead than anticipated?
- Is it time to rethink the level of investment risk in your portfolio?
Adjust your 401(k) deferral
If you aren’t on track to defer the maximum amount of your salary allowed ($17,500 or $23,000 if you are 50 or over at any point in 2014) try to up the percentage of your salary being deferred to the extent that you can. Every little bit helps when saving for retirement.
Rebalance your portfolio
This should be a standard in your financial playbook. Different types of investments will perform differently at different times which can cause your overall portfolio to be out of balance with your target. Too much money allocated to stocks can, for example, cause you to assume more risk than you had anticipated.
While it is a good idea to review your asset allocation at regular intervals, you don’t want to overdo rebalancing either. I generally suggest that 401(k) participants whose plan offers auto rebalancing set the frequency to every six months. More frequent rebalancing might be appropriate if market conditions have caused your portfolio to be severely misallocated.
Note some investment strategies call for a more tactical approach which is fine. If you are using such a tactical approach (perhaps via an ETF strategist) you will still want to monitor what this manager is doing and that their strategy fits your plan and tolerance for risk.
Review your individual investments
Certainly you will not want to make decisions about any investment holdings based upon short-term results but here are a few things to take into account during your mid-year financial review:
- If you hold individual stocks where are they in relation to your target sell price?
- Have there been key personnel changes in the management of your actively managed mutual funds?
- Are any of your mutual funds suffering from asset bloat due to solid performance or perhaps just the greed of the mutual fund company?
- Are the expense ratios of your index mutual funds and ETFs among the lowest available to you?
- Has your company retirement plan added or removed any investment options?
- Is the Target Date Fund option in your 401(k) plan really the best place for your retirement contributions?
Review your company benefits
I know its July but your annual Open Enrollment for employee benefits at most employers is coming up in the fall. This is the time where you can adjust your various benefits such as health insurance, dental, etc. Take a look at your benefits usage and your family situation as part of your financial review to see if you might need to consider adjustments in the fall.
Review your career status
How are things going in your current job? Are you on a solid career path? Is it time for a change either internally or with a new employer?
A key question to ask yourself is whether you feel in danger of losing your job. Often companies will time their layoffs for the second half of the year. Ask yourself if approached with a buyout offer to leave would you take it.
For most of us our job is our major source of income and the vehicle that allows us to save and invest to meet financial goals such as retirement and sending our kids to college.
Start a self-employed retirement plan
If you are self-employed you need to think about starting a retirement plan for yourself. The SEP-IRA and the Solo 401(k) are two of the most common self-employed retirement plans, but there are other alternatives as well.
You work too hard not to save for your retirement. If you don’t have plan in place for yourself it is time to take action.
Mid-year is a great time for a financial review. Take some time and take stock of your situation. Failing to plan your financial future is a plan to fail financially.
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