Setting goals is an essential tool to living a purposeful life and achieving your dreams and aspirations. But merely setting goals isn’t enough, you have to conduct regular check-ins to assess your progress and recalibrate your “roadmaps to success” if necessary. The mid-year point is always a good time to check in on the goals you’ve set for the year to make sure you’re still on track. That way you have plenty of time to make adjustments before December.
If you set financial and mental health goals for this year, this post will help you conduct a mid-year check-in and make any necessary changes. Employers will also find ways to help employees achieve their financial and mental wellness goals so that they’re less stressed and more productive at work.
How to conduct a mid-year financial wellness check-in
When you’re assessing your financial progress (or lack thereof), you want to look at four major areas:
- Tax withholdings
You’ll want to assess the current state of each, how it compares with the goals you had for this year, and your goals overall. Then, you can determine the changes you can make to get closer to those goals.
Check your savings and tax-advantaged accounts
There is an estimated $3.68 trillion gap between what Americans will need saved for retirement and what is currently being saved. On top of that, 49% of U.S. adults have less savings than they had a year ago, or no savings at all. That means if an emergency arose, like an unexpected medical bill, or a car or home repair, these adults might have to use a credit card or might not have a way to pay for it at all. The simple fact is: most people aren’t saving enough.
So when you review your savings, look at your retirement account(s) as well as your emergency savings account, your HSA, and any other savings vehicles you have. Are your balances what you thought they would be at this point in the year? Are you saving enough to reach your financial goals? Does your emergency savings account have at least 3 months’ expenses in it? Will you max out your retirement account and HSA contributions?
If you’re not sure how much you should be saving, use financial calculators to estimate the appropriate amount you should be socking away each month and year. You can use Bankrate’s financial calculator for retirement savings, Lively’s HSA calculator for your HSA (remember that your HSA can be used to augment your retirement savings), and economists’ general rule of thumb for household savings (3-6 months of basic expenses).
The caveat to the 3-6 months’ expenses rule is if you are a low income earner (which is defined as making 200% of the poverty line or less). If you fall into this category, economists recommend saving 1 months’ expenses or approximately $2,500. Low income earners who save for retirement can also qualify for the Saver’s Tax Credit which rewards said retirement savings with a lower tax bill.
If your savings levels aren’t where they should be, create a plan to save more. Set up automatic savings withdrawals to a separate savings account. Relook at your budget (see below) to see where you can cut spending to save more. If you’re currently prioritizing paying down debt, aim to save at least $1,000 this year so you have some financial cushion should an emergency arise.
When reviewing your retirement contributions and investment accounts you will want to make sure you are: contributing enough to max out your employer’s contribution match (if applicable) and that your investment accounts (including retirement) are automatically rebalanced to reflect your savings goals. If they aren’t you’ll want to rebalance them yourself.
Check your budget
There are many factors that affect your budget on a monthly basis, so it’s prudent to take a look at your income and expenditures on a regular basis. Regularly checking in with your budget ensures that your budget is realistic and is adequate to meet your financial and life goals.
Here are the steps to reviewing your budget:
- Update your income so that it accurately reflects what you take in every month. If you’re self-employed and your income fluctuates, take the average of the last six months.
- Review your spending. Go line item by line item and categorize it as either a want or a need. Where is your money going? Does it align with your financial goals? Where can you cut? Review your subscriptions and memberships and make sure they are all being used and necessary.
- Establish a separate account for irregular expenditures like birthdays, holidays, vacations, and anniversaries. These expenses don’t occur every month but still need to be budgeted for. So set up regular deposits into this irregular expenditures account.
- Plan for or adjust your budget for major life changes like the birth of a child or divorce from or death of a spouse.
Check your debt
Nothing will hamstring your efforts to reach your financial goals like carrying high interest debt like credit card balances and personal loans. So try to pay down your debt as quickly and responsibly as possible. There are two philosophies on how you can go about it: the Avalanche method and the Snowball method.
- Avalanche method. If you’re using this method, you would pay off your highest interest debt first while making minimum payments on your other debt. Once the highest interest rate debt is paid off, you move to the next highest interest debt. Repeat the cycle until you’re debt free.
- Snowball method. The Snowball method entails paying off the debt with the lowest balance first while making minimum payments on the other debt. When that balance is paid off, you move to the debt with the next lowest balance, repeating the process until you’re debt free.
Both of these methods have their benefits. If you use the Avalanche method, you will usually pay less interest overall and pay your debt down quicker (as long as you don’t incur more debt in the process). If you use the Snowball method, it could feel more manageable from a mental standpoint and you will get the emotional benefit of a quick win. Regardless of the method you choose, you will want to write out a list of your debts that include the total balance, the interest rates and the minimum monthly payments. Prioritize these debts according to your chosen method (if Avalanche, you’re prioritizing based on the interest rate, if Snowball, you’re prioritizing based on the balance). Then work these debt payments into your budget.
Check your tax liabilities
If you’ve experienced any changes in income or expenses this year, you might need to adjust your tax withholding rate. The same is true if you were surprised by an unusually large tax bill or refund in April. To help determine what you may owe, you can use the calculator on the IRS website and of course, consult with a financial professional.
How employers can help employees maintain financial wellness
According to recent surveys, 72% of employees report feeling stressed about their finances and losing an average of 11.4 hours of productivity a week due to this stress. But there are many ways employers can help ease the financial stress their workforce feels without raising compensation across the board. Employers can:
- Offer financial literacy classes.
- Add health and wellness savings accounts like HSAs, FSAs, and Medical Travel Accounts to their benefits package. Employers can encourage employees to save by contributing to their accounts. Make sure to include an investment option for their HSA like the Self-Directed or Guided Portfolio options that Lively offers. This will enable employees to grow their medical savings faster.
- Include a Lifestyle Savings Account (LSA) in benefits offerings and support expenditures on financial wellness expenses like financial counseling, budgeting help, financial advising, and budgeting software like Mint.
Mental and emotional wellness check-in
Maintaining good mental and emotional health is essential to maintaining good physical and financial health. If you’re not at your optimal best emotionally and mentally, it’s hard to make good choices and be as productive as you want to be in both your personal and professional life. To conduct a mental and emotional wellness check-in, ask yourself these questions:
- How have I been feeling? If you’re not able to clearly articulate your feelings, using a feelings wheel can help. You start at the center of the wheel with your general feeling, then work your way outward, following the path that most resonates with your emotional state. There might be multiple feelings that resonate with you because our lives are complex and we might feel a wide range of emotions through any given day, week or month. Write down all that apply.
- Why am I feeling this way? Once you have pinpointed how you feel, it’s important to investigate the why. Write down the events that have occurred or factors that are presently occurring that could be contributing to your feeling this way. Determine what is a short-term or one-time event and what conditions are chronic.
- What do I need to do to take care of myself mentally and emotionally? Once you’ve determined the why of how you’re feeling, it’s time to figure out how to deal with it. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, you might need to work on taking breaks and rest. If you’re feeling down, you might benefit from engaging in a favorite hobby or seeing or calling your favorite people. Everyone needs to engage in regular self-care, what that self-care looks like will be different depending on your needs. Take the time and mental space to investigate what would be most fulfilling to you now.
- What can I do to reduce stress and promote peace? Chronic stress is one of the chief negative influences of our mental and physical health. If you’re experiencing work or school-related stress, creating a routine and taking regular breaks throughout the day can be beneficial in reducing that stress. If you’re experiencing stress outside of work and school, resulting from caretaking duties or other experiences, prioritizing self-care can help with this. Taking time to rest and meditate can benefit everyone and help promote a feeling of peace and calm.
- What coping mechanisms can I employ if I’m feeling overwhelmed or down? One of the best ways to ensure you maintain an optimal mental and emotional state is by creating a plan for what to do when the inevitable bouts of stress, overwhelm and depression hit. Write these coping mechanisms down and keep them in a place for easy access like your bedside table. Revisit them often, even if you’re currently feeling “good”.
If you have trouble determining the answers to any of these questions, reach out to a mental health professional. They can help you determine what you’re feeling, why you’re feeling it and how you can go about resolving these feelings.
How employers can help employees maintain mental and emotional wellness
Deloitte recently surveyed full time U.S. employees and found that more than 77% had experienced or were currently experiencing burnout at their current job. More than 50% of these respondents had experienced burnout before. This burnout is costly for employees in terms of their physical, mental and financial health, but it’s also costly for employers. Burnout slows productivity, lowers job satisfaction, can cause conflict between coworkers, and could lead to difficulty meeting deadlines and complete withdrawal from the company.
It’s a condition that cannot be ignored and there are many ways employers can combat it:
- Encourage employees to take time off. This can be communicated in many ways including employee check-ins to make sure people are taking vacation time.
- Monitor employee workloads so that employees are not overworked. Encourage employees to speak up if they are feeling overworked and normalize saying “no” to new projects if they can’t do so and maintain a healthy balance.
- Provide benefits that support a healthy lifestyle and balance. LSAs that help employees pay for hobbies, gym memberships or home gym equipment, meditation apps and more can signal to employees that their mental and emotional health are important and supported at the company.
- Provide mental health days that don’t count against employees’ PTO allotment. One thing many companies have started doing is offering global mental health days throughout the year. These are “extra” days off that aren’t related to a holiday and don’t require the employees to request PTO.
Checking in on your financial and mental wellness mid-year can go a long way toward helping you reach your goals. It can also help you find more ease and peace in your everyday life. For more targeted help and advice regarding your financial or mental health, always reach out to a professional.
Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.