Every six months my family likes to undergo a semi-drastic life change. Nearly a year ago I left the corporate world to be a freelance and entrepreneurial web programmer. Then we had our second child. In 2008, The Wife will be dropping to a supplemental nursing position, meaning she will work about 8 hours per month and retain seniority. A bevy of insurance and savings questions have been answered, and a lot remain in the air.
Since leaving the corporate gig, my fairly regimented manner of saving toward retirement has been disrupted. In fact, we decided it would be OK if we didn’t save anything for the following year or two if need be. This decision wasn’t really out of comfort with our existing savings, but out of the need to make a career change.
Luckily we have arrived at the end of 2007 with some extra money in the savings account. Now we need to decide where to direct the cash. This required some analysis on what our current emergency fund needs are as well as our comfortable minimum level of cash on hand. In true Getting Things Done fashion, I created a (near) quarterly financial checklist to revist throughout the year. I’m calling it our Quarterly Financial Temperature.
Please feel free to offer any suggestions.
QUARTERLY FINANCIAL TEMPERATURE (Tickle in April, June, September, and January, when estimated tax payments due) Liquid account minimums: $x,000 - Emergency funds $y,000 - Money market/savings $z,000 - Checking (directly prior to monthly paycheck) Possible cash redistribution means: o Keep extra cash on-hand o Valuable business expenditures o Pay off loans - Credit card - Auto - Mortgage - Student - Other o Fund HSA o Save toward major expense - Vacation - Auto (new vehicle or major repair) - Real estate - Other item o Long-term savings - My Traditional IRA - The Wife's ROTH IRA - SEP-IRA - Education vehicle - Other o Additional Insurance - Life - Disability - Health o Charity o Start/increase/decrease automatic monthly contributions to retirement fund
- My emergency fund technique involves a series of four self-renewing, annual CD’s, each expiring in a different quarter.
- I measure my checking account minimum at the low point of a given month. So I’m comfortable with $z,000 in my checking account just before my monthly paycheck arrives.
- My cash redistribution checklist is somewhat in priority order, though not exactly. For instance, I don’t know if “Fund HSA” should even be on there. But I do want to be reminded of medical expenses. I also wonder if I should give higher priority to the item referencing automatic contributions to retirement savings.
- I haven’t carried a balance on my credit cards since just after college. Put it in the list just to be safe.
Update: Shame on me, I forgot to list charity as a spending option. Updated.