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Back-To-School Financial Checklist

As the end of summer draws to a close, back-to-school season is a good opportunity to revisit your finances and get on track for the remainder of the year.

Here are some tips for checking in with your money:

Assess where you stand.

If you set financial goals at the beginning of the year, now's a good time to check your progress.

  • How much have you saved?
  • Are you on track for your goals or are you behind in that and need to catch up?
  • How are you tracking on your holiday spending budget? Start saving now so you don’t have to put your holiday gift and entertainment expenses on credit.

If you are like 7 out of 10 Americans who don’t have at least $1,000 in savings, we encourage you to start now with this as a goal, then aim for saving up at least three to six months' worth of living expenses in an emergency fund.

Check (or create) your budget.

Now's a good time to check in with your budget (or if you don't have a budget). Most people find that they are overspending in ways that they don't realize, so it's about checking in, and if you're one of those really on-top-of-it people who already have a budget, make sure you're on target through the end of the year.

If you've had a change in life circumstance earlier this year, such as a marriage, divorce, new baby or new job, it's doubly important to revisit and recalibrate your budget (and employer withholding) accordingly.

Break down your goals.

If you're trying to reach a certain financial milestone by the end of the year, it’s good to break your goal down into smaller parts. As opposed to telling yourself, "I need to save $500 by December 24" (which could feel overwhelming to some people), calculate how much you need to save each week or month to make that happen. If you need to save and you're behind your goal, re-evaluate your numbers and adjust your goal.

Review your credit report.

Consumers are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com.

Since the information in a person’s credit report is used to evaluate applications for credit, loans, insurance and employment, we offer our members a free credit report review with an expert through our Financial Capability Center so they can make sure their information is accurate and up-to-date.

Revisit your insurance needs.

We recommend checking your insurance coverage once a year. Does the coverage still suit your needs? Are you overpaying for coverage? You can't always switch health insurance at any time of the year, but you can certainly switch homeowners or auto insurance providers if you find a better deal.

Look for rate-cutting opportunities.

Most homeowners know they can refinance their mortgage to a lower rate, provided they qualify based on equity, credit standing and other factors. But you can also refinance other types of loans, including student loans. Many people who are paying student loans got them when the rates were much higher. By refinancing at a lower rate, you will pay less in total interest.

If you have credit card debt and a decent credit score, explore zero percent balance transfer offers, but do the math to make sure that the savings won't be offset by fees.

Optimize your tax strategies.

Looking ahead to year-end, we encourage members to plan how they'll reduce their tax liability through charitable contributions or retirement contributions. If you haven't reached your 401(k) contribution limit yet and have extra money coming in, consider boosting your contributions to lower your taxable income and put aside extra money for retirement.

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