Every year, public companies must put together a big report with all their financial information called a 10-K. It’s shared publicly so that investors are informed about company performance and financial standing. Of course internally, companies monitor performance throughout the year, tracking budgets and expectations every month.
So what about you? How often do you evaluate your performance against budgets and expectations? I am not making an indictment against those who don’t have a budget. But I would like to point out that, if you haven’t already, you will soon have to create your own personal financial report in the form of an income tax return, so since you have to do it, you might as well learn something from it.
For starters, do you know how much money you make? Most people at least have a rough idea, but many people don’t know down to the thousand. And if you’re self-employed, chances are even lower. So when your return is complete, look on the first page to see exactly how much money you make and where it all comes from.
Is that more or less than you thought it would be? Does the financial pressure in your life feel commensurate with that level of income? Or is money somehow tighter than it probably should be? It’s easy to get wrapped up in month-to-month living and covering your bills, but when you see your annual income, it’s a good practice to re-examine your lifestyle to see if your monthly expenses are justified.
Now look at your deductions, especially mortgage and student loan interest. You know what’s better than getting a tax deduction? Keeping your money. So what’s your plan to pay down that mortgage and student loan balance? Early payoffs can save you tens of thousands of dollars in interest. Do you know what your interest rates are? Maybe you should consider refinancing.
These questions are just a few that can be easily answered from your tax return—it can give many more insights, so take advantage of the opportunity. No one enjoys the tax filing process, but you should at least learn something from it.
Josh Norris is an Investment Advisory Representative of LeFleur Financial. Josh can be reached at josh@LeFleurFinancial.com.