4 min read

October 09, 2020

Reality check: 3 steps to your financial snapshot

What if you could build something "more" with your investments, what would that look like? To plan for that, you first need to know where you stand with your finances.

Person sitting at desk writing on notepad

You’ve worked and planned and invested so you can enjoy your life when it’s time to retire. But if you could build something “more” with your investments, what would that look like?

Maybe that means you could finally get season tickets to watch your favorite college football team each year.

Or spend a week visiting the next national park on your travel bucket list.

Or add a little shed to your backyard so you can expand your flower gardens.

To plan for that, you first need to know where you stand with your finances so you can build something more.

Here are 3 steps to getting that financial snapshot.

Step 1: Log into your financial accounts.

Nearly every type of financial account has online access now. If you haven’t done it yet, take a few minutes to set up usernames and passwords. (And then store them in a secure place.)

Check your primary accounts where you have money, such as:

  • Investments—this could include mutual funds, stock, IRAs, and more
  • 401(k) or 403(b) account—basically, your retirement savings (which is also investments)
  • Bank account—look at checking, savings, and CDs

Jot down the balance in each account. You can use our handy 3 steps worksheet (PDF) to log your numbers.

Estimated time: About 10 minutes. (Well, maybe 15 minutes if you set up account access first.)

Step 2: Check your insurance coverage.

Let’s face it: Income and assets are important. So, to help keep your financial goals alive, look over your policies to see if you have enough life and disability insurance coverage for your current lifestyle.

Would you have to tap into your retirement savings to cover your income, for example, if you become too sick to work?

If you work for a company that has a life insurance benefit for employees, look up how much coverage you have. (And check on disability insurance benefits, too.) Those are good numbers to round out the full picture of your coverage.

Estimated time: About five minutes.

Step 3: Know your spending habits. 

Yes, we’re talking about the dreaded “B” word. (Budget.)

“Some people resist doing a budget because they think it’s going to restrict them from spending the way they want,” says Matt Fitzgerald, a financial professional with Principal® in St. Louis.

But that’s not the best perspective.

“Think of it as your monthly cash flow, or a spending plan,” Fitzgerald says. “Give yourself permission to decide where and how you spend your money. But you still need to know what’s coming in, and then where it’s going.”

Get started. You can use our downloadable household budget worksheet (PDF) to write down your numbers. Look at recent bills plus bank and credit card statements to give you the real facts.

Add up your income. Subtract your expenses. And see what’s left. How much of that could you put toward the “more” you want from your investments? Log the numbers on the worksheet.

Estimated time: OK, so this step does take a little longer. Take a good hour or so to look through your bills and statements so you can log your numbers on the budget worksheet. (Be realistic. No cheating.)  

That’s it.

In about an hour and a half on a rainy Sunday afternoon, you could have a snapshot of your financials.

Next steps:

Insurance products issued by Principal National Life Insurance Co. (except in NY) and Principal Life Insurance Co. Securities and advisory products offered through Principal Securities, Inc., 800-247-1737, Member SIPC. Principal National, Principal Life and Principal Securities are members of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, IA 50392. Matt Fitzgerald, Principal National and Principal Life Financial Representative, Principal Securities Registered Representative, Financial Advisor.