Six signs that you are in good shape.
How well off do you think you are financially? If your career or life takes an unexpected turn, would your finances hold up? What do you think will become of the money you’ve made and saved when you are gone?
These are major questions, and most people can’t answer them as quickly as they would like. It might help to think about six factors in your financial life. Here is a six-point test you can take to gauge your financial well-being.
Are you saving about 15% of your salary for retirement? That’s a nice target. If you’re earning good money, that will probably amount to $10-20,000 per year. You are probably already saving that much annually without any strain to your lifestyle. Annual IRA contributions and incremental salary deferrals into a workplace retirement plan will likely put you in that ballpark. As those dollars are being invested as well as saved, they have the potential to grow with tax deferral – and if your employer is making matching contributions to your retirement account along the way, you have another reason to smile.
Do you have an emergency fund? Sadly, most Americans don’t. In June, Bankrate polled U.S. households and found that 26% of them were living paycheck-to-paycheck, with no emergency fund at all.1
A strong emergency fund contains enough money to cover six months of expenses for the individual who maintains it. (Just 23% of respondents in the Bankrate survey reported having a fund that sizable.) If you head up a family, the fund should ideally be larger – large enough to address a year of expenses. At first thought, building a cash reserve that big may seem daunting, or even impossible – but households have done it, especially households that have jettisoned or whittled down debt. If you have done it, give yourself a hand with the knowledge that you have prepared well for uncertainty.1
Are you insured? As U.S. News & World Report mentioned this summer, about 30% of U.S. households don’t have life insurance. Why? They can’t afford it. That’s the perception.2
In reality, life insurance is much less expensive now than it was decades ago. As the CEO of insurance industry group LIMRA commented to USN&WR, most people think it is about three times as expensive as it really is. How much do you need? A quick rule of thumb is ten times your income. Hopefully, you have decent or better insurance coverage in place.2
Do you have a will or an estate plan? Dying intestate (without a will) can leave your heirs with financial headaches at an already depressing time. Having a will is basic, yet many Americans don’t create one. In its annual survey this spring, the budget legal service website RocketLawyer found that only 51% of Americans aged 55-64 have drawn up a will. Just 38% of Americans aged 45-54 have drafted one.3
Why don’t more of us have wills? A lack of will, apparently. RocketLawyer asked respondents without wills to check off why they hadn’t created one, and the top reason (57%) was “just haven’t gotten around to making one.” A living will, a healthcare power of attorney and a double-check on the beneficiary designations on your investment accounts is also wise.3
Not everyone needs an estate plan, but if you’re reading this article, chances are you might. If you have significant wealth, a complex financial life, or some long-range financial directives you would like your heirs to carry out or abide by, it is a good idea. Congratulate yourself if you have a will, as many people don’t; if you have taken further estate planning steps, bravo.
Is your credit score 700 or better? Today, 685 is considered an average FICO score. If you go below 650, life can get more expensive for you. Hopefully you pay your bills consistently and unfailingly and your score is in the 700s. You can request your FICO score while signing up for a trial period with a service such as TransUnion or GoFreeCredit.4
Are you worth much more than you owe? This is the #1 objective. You want your major debts gone, and you want enough money for a lifetime. You will probably always carry some debt, and you can’t rule out risks to your net worth tomorrow – but if you are getting further and further ahead financially and your bottom line shows it, you are making progress in your pursuit of financial independence.