What Matters Most – 5 Financial Health Checkup Tips with Jen Jones

In today's episode, we continue our 3 part series with Jen Jones, Senior Wealth Advisor with First United's Wealth Management department. The topic today is about a financial health checkup! Jen provides 5 tips to ensure your finances are in top shape in the new year.


Announcer: Welcome to the “What Matters Most” podcast, presented by First United Bank & Trust. That’s my bank. Visit us today at mybank.com.

Eric: Hello and welcome to “What Matters Most,” the podcast all about finances, community, savings, and security for you, your family, and your business. This podcast is brought to you by the helpful folks at my bank, First United Bank & Trust. I’m your host, Eric Nutter, and in today’s episode, “What Matters Most” is a checkup with your financial health. And for this discussion, I’m thankful to be joined remotely today by Jen Jones, Senior wealth advisor in First United’s wealth management department. Good morning, Jen, how’s it going?

Jen: Hi, Eric. Good, how are you?

Eric: Eric. I’m doing well. I appreciate you joining…

Jen: Cool.

Eric: …me today. I know we’ve got a whole series, three episodes that we’re…

Jen: Yeah.

Eric: …gonna record together, to talk about a variety of topics that are…

Jen: That’s right.

Eric: …kind of good things to be thinking about right now at the beginning of the year. It’s…you know, you and I had our New Year’s resolution episode.

Jen: Right.

Eric: Where we talked about some things. So, this is kind of more deep dive into some of those kind of things. And today, you’re gonna talk about financial health. Tell us a little bit about that.

Jen: That’s right. So, just like your physical health, it’s important to check your financial health, too. And we recommend that you do that at least once a year, and just make sure that everything that you think is happening financially in your life is happening.

So, a good kind of reminder on that is to just kind of go through and say, “Okay, is there anything…” Starting out with, is there anything that has changed? Have I changed jobs, or have I changed income? Think about last year, and then what’s happening this year. Is your family situation different, you know, last year to this year for…you know, [inaudible 00:01:56] COVID, and just say, you know, probably there’s some dramatic changes, whether they be income or not related in our lives, too.

So, retirement, housing, anything like that. You just kind of want to take an inventory, and just, again, make sure that you keep your financial health in check too, along with your physical health. So, there’s five things that we’re going to talk about today that can kind of set you on the path of making sure that you’re financially healthy.

Eric: Awesome. I love my lists.

Jen: So, we’re gonna…the first one is, you know, you want to take a look at either your budget, or update your budget if you already have one, which is great. Again, you just kind of want to make sure that you’re on the right path. Again, is there any changes in your job or your income? Any changes in your needs? And just make sure that you’re checking through all of those accounts that you have, and your emergency fund.

Making sure that you’ve got some emergency funds in there, savings account, or whatever it would be, making sure that those emergency funds are where you want them to be. Taking a look at your statements. A lot of times, working at the bank, we have folks that don’t even look at their statement or, you know, they just kind of go off whatever the balance is in their account.

And we encourage you to just look at that and make sure everything’s on the same page, and just that you’re prepared and have made little changes on the budget that you have. Or, just make a budget in general.

Eric: Right. Yeah. I think we talked about that a lot in New Year’s episode, that…

Jen: We did, yes.

Eric: …budgeting is an important thing. I really enjoyed doing that. But it is amazing how things can crop up, but you forget about a thing you signed up for, some service, or whatever it might be. You signed up for something, and you’re being charged.

Or maybe you’re being charged incorrectly, and if you don’t watch your statements, it’s hard to find those things. It’s hard to come across those items. So, sometimes having the budget helps. But what you could also use, something that dawned on me while you were talking about that`1 is using, like, personal financial management tools that…

Jen: Oh, yeah.

Eric: …kind of aggregate your purchases, and then those can kind of help you identify things a little more easily than just kind of digging down through your statement, too.

Jen: Absolutely, yes. You can kind of see where those funds are being allocated to. Yep. And just, again, I’d say just making sure that you don’t forget stuff, you know, like, things like maybe taxes, or insurance, maybe that might not necessarily be due the same time every month. Things that you forget, and then they crop up on you, and you say, “Oh, shoot. I forgot about that one.” Again, you know, just making sure that you’re mentally ready to have those bills come in, or that you’re prepared.

Eric: Absolutely. Yeah, and I brought up the personal financial management tool mainly because, as an announcement this month, the month of February, we’re gonna actually be launching a personal financial management…or, a personal finance tool built into our internet banking solution. So, that’ll help customers…

Jen: Yes.

Eric: …find exactly [crosstalk 00:05:18] what you’re talking about, and help them budget and plan for the future. So, it’s got some really neat built-in features that can help identify those things. So, that’s exciting.

Jen: Yes. That would be perfect. Absolutely.

Eric: Okay.

Jen: So, that’s number one. So, number two would be to review your documents and information that you have. So, again, something that we don’t look at every day would be legal documents that you have, whether it be a power of attorney, or a will, or something like that.

Again, you just want to just review it and make sure had something changed that you need to get an update done on there. Same with any kind of insurance or beneficiary designations that you have, even if you haven’t changed anything, sometimes if companies change names, they don’t always necessarily keep all of their beneficiary information.

So, you know, as statements come in you just want to make sure that they do have that on file, that they have your beneficiary information. Same with just looking over, you know, your investment accounts, or your allocation, your bank account information.

We kind of talked about that in the last one a little bit. Just, again, going through, making sure things are…just taking an extra minute and just making sure things are set up as the way that you want them. So…

Eric: Yeah, absolutely. I would even say, even more just mundane information, too. Just simple things like, is my email address correct on my account?

Jen: Right, yeah.

Eric: Because sometimes people change, and they’re not getting the notifications that they thought they were. So, they’re not even…they don’t even realize something’s happened with one of their accounts or something. So, checking that information can be super helpful, for sure.

Jen: Absolutely, yeah. I actually just did that to myself a little bit ago. We…somehow our cable bill got switched to a paperless statement, and I wasn’t getting a bill, and I forgot about it. Until you get a nasty letter that says, “Hey, are you gonna pay us?”

So, things happen like that. And it was…it was on a different email, because they had the original email that we set it up with, which we don’t, you know, use all the time anymore. So, definitely something to make sure that you do that, too. So, that’s number two.

Eric: Okay.

Jen: And then, the third one is to just kind of review anything else that doesn’t fall into those categories. So…and we talked a little bit about this too, Eric, about, you know, maybe because you do something cheaper. Or, you know, do you really need this?

Especially this year, you know, with all the pandemic going on. People have really kind of looked at this and said, “Hm, maybe I don’t really need this.” Or, you know, we have three cars and nobody’s driving anywhere, so maybe we don’t need, you know, things like that. Or looking at the debt that you do have and saying, “Maybe can we consolidate this?” [inaudible 00:08:08]

We can attest to you right now that if you haven’t refinanced your mortgage, it’s definitely the time to do it, because the interest rates are so low. So, taking a look at [inaudible 00:08:18] things, even if it’s not on that kind of a level, but, you know, looking at your insurance. Could you get a cheaper…same coverage, cheaper somewhere else? Or cable, or anything like that. But, you know, you want to shop around for a little bit and make sure that, you know, how can you kind of get the most bang for your buck kind of thing.

Eric: Absolutely. Yeah. No, that’s great advice. All right. What’s number four?

Jen: So, number four is to update those long and short-term kind of financial plans that you have. So, you know, as you go along, you kind of say, “Okay…” in your head. “By, you know, 2021 I want to have this much in savings.” Well, now you’re at 2021, so what’s the next step to that?

So, kind of updating that to say, “Okay, now we’re here, and now we need to get to, you know, whatever that next step would be.” And you need to do that, like, short-term, which is, you know, 3 months, 6 months, up to probably 18 months down the line. And then, long term too. You know, how about retirement dates? Have they changed?

Or, you know, other things that are going on in your life that you need to kind of…you know, that are either getting closer, or maybe you need to move those target dates a little bit. So, again, nothing necessarily that needs to be in stone, but just kind of going through those financial lists of things so that you’re on top of things and things are updated, so that nothing creeps up on you and you’re surprised by anything that’s going on.

Eric: Right. Are there any rules of thumb in terms of…? I know that everyone’s different, everyone’s situation is different, so it’s gonna be fluid based on their needs. But are there any kind of simple numbers to think of in terms of how much do you need from a short-term, long-term savings, emergency funds, like those kinds of things? Are there easy to remember numbers?

Jen: Yeah, sure. I would say, you know, in an emergency fund, short-term kind of situation, you try to want to make sure that you have two to three times, you know, your monthly needs, your monthly expenditures on hand.

So, if you’re doing that, that could…you know, something would happen, you’ve got about two or three months’ worth of buildup there that can, you know, keep things rolling in your family, and that kind of thing. So, I’d say two to three months of bills and budget is what you need to make sure that you have for savings and things like that. So, good rule of thumb.

Eric: Yeah. Yeah, and that can be a big thing to bite off and try to figure out for a lot of families. So, I mean, is there…do you just set smaller goals, and just keep working your way up? Just try to get some level of savings, that sort of thing, or…?

Jen: Yeah. And you really need to remember to pay yourself first, just like you’re paying another bill. You know, it’s easy to make sure everything else is paid, and then, you know, whatever money you have left is, “Hey, that’s spending money.”

But you need to add yourself onto that list of bills to be paid, too, which is, you know, putting money back into that emergency fund, or savings, or investments, or wherever it is, and pay yourself in that same order. And don’t backtrack and take it back out of there.

Eric: Right.

Jen: And use it for something else, too. Unless, you know, obviously for an…

Eric: Unless you have to. Right.

Jen: …emergency, because that’s what it’s there for. Right.

Eric: Right.

Jen: But, you know, putting yourself…you know, paying yourself and putting yourself on that list. It’s helpful to…automatic deduction is helpful, too. You know, kind of out of sight, out of mind. If it’s just automatically coming out there, and you don’t have to, you know, physically or manually transfer from one account to the other, it’s gonna happen no matter what. So, that’s a good thing too.

Eric: Absolutely. Well, so, these first four bullet points. I already…I see your list ahead of time, so…These first four [crosstalk 00:12:18] bullet points feel like a lot of stuff to remember, especially…the one that I think gives me the most angst is the second one, reviewing all the legal documents. Having legal documents, let alone reviewing them. You know, beneficiary designations, all that stuff, it’s just a lot of that stuff to go through. So, I’m hoping you’re bullet point number five is the silver bullet to help with all this, because it seems like a lot.

Jen: Sure, it is. And number five is that, you know, if you get stuck on any of these, is to go get some help. A financial advisor is a good place, an attorney, or a CPA to help you with any of this. So, as is always, here at First United in our Wealth Department, that we are certainly able to kind of guide you through checking your financial health.

In fact, at some of our locations we even have a financial checkup day, so that’s something you kind of want to keep on the radar if that would happen in your branch as well, where we’ll be there, and you can kind of bring in all of your stuff, and kind of put it out in front of us and say, “Here’s what I have. What should I be doing? What am I missing?”

And we can kind of help go through some of that stuff for you, Eric. We’d go through your legal documents, and we’d make sure that you’re all set on that legal stuff. And if you aren’t, and you need to have some updates, you know, we’d recommend some attorneys to kind of help you kind of set that up, and some other things to kind of get you on the right path.

But we go through kind of all four of those bullet points, and just make sure that you’ve got everything covered. And if there’s anything that you’ve missed, we can make sure that we take care of it for you.

Eric: Awesome. When those events happen at the branches…of course, right now’s a little tough with COVID, but when things ease up and people are more able to get into the branches and see people face to face…when those happen, do they have to be customers of the bank to come in…

Jen: Oh, my gosh, no.

Eric: …and get that support?

Jen: Yeah, no, not at all. We’re happy to help anybody that needs it.

Eric: Awesome. Excellent. Well, Jen, this has been really helpful. I love the list, so hopefully we can keep that up with the next couple of episodes in our playlist here. But I want to thank you for joining me today and the insights.

Jen: Well, sure. No problem. I’m happy to help.

Eric: So, if anyone has questions or wants to learn more, what’s the best way they can get the support they need?

Jen: Well, the best way is you can contact me directly at jjones@mybank.com. You can always check out the mybank.com website and click under the wealth tab. That’s where all of our wealth advisors and their pictures and contact information is located.

Eric: Awesome. Well, thanks again. That brings us to the end of our show. You can always find more episodes by visiting mybank.com/podcasts, or find us on your favorite podcast app. And you can also leave feedback, ask questions, or request a topic for us to discuss by sending an email to podcast@mybank.com.

Thanks for listening. We’ll be back next week with more helpful content. But until then, we wish you the best in focusing on what matters most to you.

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