Year-end holidays are approaching and lists are being prepared so that every detail is remembered and taken care of in time for those special days. Gift lists for family and friends; shopping lists for holiday parties; and to-do lists to remind us to clean the house or repair the doorknob or dispose of the yearlong collection of magazines still waiting to be read.
This year, I took a few moments to put together a different type of gift list; a list to remind myself of things I can give to others as a way to provide safety, security, and health. Here is a copy of my personal gift list for this year.
Holiday Gift List
For my spouse:
Create a file that itemizes all of my company benefit plans and life insurance policies; company savings/credit union plans and stock programs; as well as current and prior company 401(k) accounts and pension plans. I will include the contact information for each plan and I will absolutely make sure that my beneficiary forms are up-to-date and have my current beneficiaries listed.
For my children:
Start taking a little from every paycheck to save for education. If college is in their future, I will look into funding a 529 Plan. Since college may not be the right path for every child, I will start a separate personal savings account to help pay for the specialized career training or trade school tuition that likely will be needed after high school. Using the company direct deposit process, I may be able to have these education deductions automatically separated from my paycheck and deposited into my new account.
For my parents:
Research the affordability and availability of Long Term Care Insurance (LTCI). I will also consider LTCI for my spouse and myself, and I will ask if my company offers LTC discounts that also apply to parents.
For my family:
Prepare all the paperwork that is usually avoided: a Last Will and Testament … so that if anything happens to me, what belonged to me on earth gets passed to those I care about; Guardianship assignments so my dependents will be cared for and cared about; and a Power of Attorney and a Living Will to make certain that people I trust can make the right decisions for me if I am unable to decide. I will also make certain that my life insurance coverage will be enough to help my family, if needed.
For my career:
Start a list of those skills that make me indispensable at my job and those skills that I need to add to my repertoire. I will also look at what additional training I will need to make sure that I keep my job and, perhaps, get considered for promotion. And, finally, I will build a resume summarizing my skills and experience to both remind me that I am well qualified to do my job and keep in my desk drawer to have ready in case a new opportunity arises.
For my retirement:
Save for the future realizing that the responsibility to pay my retirement will be mine and any help I get from other sources is a benefit that should not be relied upon until the check actually arrives. I will diversify my retirement savings to include: 401(k); personal savings; and investments. Although I plan to work for many more years, I will start estimating what I will need to save in order to afford my mortgage, taxes, utilities, healthcare, recreation and other expenses when I retire. And I will remind myself that I will likely live a long life so I will need to be ready to enjoy every minute of it!
For my company:
Think about how my job relates to my company and my co-workers. I will develop an understanding of how my job contributes to the success of the company and I will work toward improving my skills and results to make both myself and the company more successful. On a daily basis, I will remind myself that I am good for the company and that job security is good for me.
For my country:
I will check my payroll tax rates and deductions to make sure I am paying every penny due but never a penny too much. I will balance my annual withholding rate to avoid taking too much out of my paycheck although it means I will get a lower tax refund next year.
Best wishes for happiness during the year-end holidays and success in the New Year.
'What you earn' is a financial planning column that explores compensation and financial planning beyond your regular paycheck. 'What You Earn' is wholly owned and operated by Roanoke Consulting LLC.