Sunday, December 9, 2012

Review Your Finances -- Count Your Money at the End of the Year

Gorham Etruscan sterling silver flatware pattern from 1913
Sterling Silver Flatware May Be An Asset
End of the Year Calculations Help You Understand Where Your Money Goes
Losing weight and taking control of your finances are two common New Year's resolutions. You may want to see if you've made any financial progress this year, and you can do this without a financial counselor or planner.
If you're interested in handling your money, you may watch Suze Orman, Clark Howard or Gail Vaz-Oxley. In addition to finances, a recurring part of these programs is that the participants seldom realize how much money they spend, and most spend more than they have coming in each month.
Four basic calculations tell you all you need to know -- income, expenses, assets and liabilities.
Calculate your average income for the month from employment and all other sources. Use your gross income so you can see taxes, insurance, 401(k) and any other deductions. If you're not employed, you pay your taxes and insurance from your savings or other income, so it's important to remember that these are expenses whether you see the deduction or not.
Determine your average expenses for a month. If you pay bills online, you may have to refer to the credit card you use or the bank account attached to your bill-paying. Don't miss your automatic withdrawals and quarterly payments.  Divide yearly payments by 12 to get the average monthly payment. Divide a quarterly payment by 3 for the monthly payment. Free services online can help you keep track of your expenses. For example, the Suze Orman Expense Tracker helps you review your expenses without sharing your personal information with the world population.
Subtracting expenses from income should give you money left over. If your expenses exceed your income, you need to make adjustments in your lifestyle so that you don't spend more than you bring in each month. The calculations are all you need to estimate where you are and where you want to be.
Calculate how much you owe by itemizing all of your liabilities -- not for the month, but the total you owe. Determine the amount you owe on your house, car, mobile device contracts, credit cards and any other bills. Include student loans in deferral -- you still owe these even if you aren't currently making payments on them.
Estimate your assets by checking the value of items you own. If your house is valued at $100,000 and you owe $80,000 on the mortgage, you have about $20,000 in equity (unless you have a second mortgage or reverse mortgage.) You can check or to estimate the current value of your automobile. Subtract any amount you owe from the value to calculate your equity. List your savings and bank accounts as assets, along with your retirement accounts. If you have a valuable collection -- coins or sterling flatware, for example -- you may want to list that as an asset as well.
Net Worth
Once you have base assets and liabilities figures for the year, subtract liabilities from your assets to arrive at your net worth. Use this figure at the end of every year to see if you're making financial progress by increasing your assets and decreasing your debts. 
Do a few calculations now to put yourself on the right track for the new year. May your year be blessed with prosperity, and may you use what you have wisely.