Create a personal finance dashboard
We can create a financial dashboard similar to our car’s dashboard, but unlike our car’s dashboard, what you put on it is entirely up to you. A great tool to use in creating your dashboard is Quicken (Try the new Quicken 2010 Desktop Products). My personal finance dashboard has things like:
1. My retirement accounts. I monitor how much I have on deposit, each account’s rate of growth, each account’s expense ratios, and the amount I’m consistently adding to my retirement funds.
2. My debt payoff rate. Regardless of which debt payoff strategy you’re using, monitoring your debt reduction is exhilarating. And if you’ve paid off a significant amount, it really gives you a buzz! Back when I had a credit card balance, I kept a sharp eye on my interest charges and I always made sure my payment was credited correctly. Keep your credit cards as well as any other consumer debt on your dashboard and make certain your payments are correctly entered on your account.
3. My cash account balances. I keep track of how much is in my savings account. Since I make regular deposits, I don’t glance at it too often. I also look at my checking account balance on a daily basis, updating the entries with the appropriate categories so when tax time rolls around, I’m ready.
4. My emergency fund. I haven’t had to tap into my emergency fund it a while, but I still keep an eye on its growth.
5. My life insurance needs. I try to evaluate my needs for life insurance on an annual basis. If your family is still growing, you’ll need to add beneficiaries, and if your income is growing, you may need more life insurance than you realize.
6. My health insurance needs. A medical issue can be devastating financially, even if you have an employer provided health insurance plan. It just makes sense for me to have a secondary policy to help cover deductibles and the 20 percent that I have to pay (I’ve had four straight years with over $10,000 in medical out-of-pocket costs).
7. My auto insurance needs. It’s very important to evaluate your car insurance needs, too. Why? You may be able to get a better rate, better coverage, or be able to drop your non-liability coverage if your car is paid off or isn’t worth the extra cost.
8. My homeowner’s insurance needs. If your home has increased or decreased in value, it might be time to re-evaluate your homeowners insurance. If your home has increased in value, you’re at risk in the event of a loss and if it’s decreased, you may be overpaying.
9. My income streams. I’ll be the first to admit that these are the weakest points on my personal finance dashboard, but I do monitor them regularly. If you decide to learn ways to make extra money, make sure you include these income streams on your dashboard.
10. My personal tax liabilities. I like to insure that I’m on track with my tax liabilities too. I check on how much I might owe and how far I am away from being eligible for certain deductions (i.e. the medical deduction currently has a floor of 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income).
Since personal finance is personal, what you keep an eye on may be (and should be) entirely different. You might even want to include an odometer reading of how far you’ve come in paying off debt or a pressure reading of your stress level.
It’s important to remember that it’s just a dashboard, and just like in your car, keep an eye on where you’re going. Never stare at your dashboard! Stare at where you want to be, glancing at your dashboard to make sure you’re going to arrive at your destination on schedule.
Photo by The Wisdom Journal! – that’s my car.