Picture of Michael Stewart

Michael Stewart

Michael’s passion for helping families achieve financial security began in the sixth grade when his father decided to share his investment portfolio with young Michael

Is This Your Best Year Yet? Here Are 4 Benchmarks To Evaluate Your Financial Health.


Everyone desires financial health, so it’s really no surprise to hear that one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to start saving more. It’s a beautiful goal and a year (in theory) is a long time… So, how does it always slip by so fast? First it’s January, then it’s March, then suddenly it’s May and then any intentions you made at the beginning of the year seem like farfetched dreams rather than realities you’ve invested time and effort in to.

We’re almost halfway through the year, and if you’re in the situation described above, then it might be a surprise to learn that saving money might not be the panacea it appears to be. Even if we are a few months behind where we want to be, we have to ask ourselves “What can we do now?”  The answer changes for every person, but there are some common dominators that are worth talking about. If you dream of a strong and secure financial future, then here are 4 easy-ish things you look into now — and will thank yourself for when the next year rolls around.

Audit Yourself

If you haven’t ever had an audit, you should. We’ve seen too many people expecting to retire at 67, but are shocked to hear that their money will run out by 75 — a surprise that can be prevented by taking a detailed look at your finances. Gather all of your financial documents and hand them over to a third party who can take a look at all the numbers and descry any red flags that call for attention. A financial physical can yield a myriad of information, the most important of which is the date your funds will run out in retirement. Using that as a guide, your team can then develop a plan that fills in the holes. It’s an incredibly honest and revealing look, as the numbers don’t lie — even if you are a naturally risk-averse person, the physical might say you need to leverage more risk in order to achieve your goals. In that case, you might have to become comfortable with a new reality. Sometimes, only an audit and a third-party professional can clearly navigate those murky waters.

Take a closer look at your debt

Debt is a big deal, especially for the younger generations. It’s far easier to shut the door on the details and to pay your monthly minimums only, but it’s unfortunately just a Band-Aid solution. Don’t ignore debt because it looks scary — look debt in the face, and get to know the nitty-gritty of the thing. For example, are you only paying down the interest on your student debt? If so, you’re doing nothing more than kicking a can down the road and, in the process, wasting money and lengthening the loan by never actually paying down your principle. By paying more than just the interest per month, you are able to whittle away at the size of your loan until it is something much more manageable. This applies to all debt, from student loans to credit cards, so it’s worth it to take a more detailed look at what you owe. From the audit we previously mentioned, maybe you’ll even find some extra money to help pay down that debt faster!

Are you investing in yourself?

If you do one thing this year, let it be this: invest in yourself. That’s as specific as we can get, because this looks so different for every person! Invite yourself to think about what you want from your life — really, truly think about it! There is no better time than the present to begin pursuing your dreams, even if you can only take baby steps. The #1 investment you can make is in yourself, so take those classes, focus on yourself, find inspiration and get those certifications; education is timeless. Technically speaking, it’s the least risky investment, with the largest potential for pay off. Best of all? It’s not money that gets squandered away, never to be seen again. You are an active participant in your investment’s success, and most of the time, that can be pretty fun.

There are other ways to invest in yourself and live authentically. Take a look at the time you spend in a day, and see where you can reallocate some hours towards constructive projects and to more efficiently reach your goals. Netflix binges feel good while they’re happening, but that’s time that could have been spent bettering yourself. Maximize your time, eat healthily, and take care of your psyche. Pursue a side hustle, even if it isn’t actively contributing income. Sometimes, simply feeling good is enough.

What’s your relationship with money?

Everyone has to deal with money, but not everyone has a healthy relationship with money. Do finances make you feel scared, or apprehensive? Perhaps money makes your excited, because it directly translates to nice dinners and shopping. Neither of these perspectives will invite financial success into your life, so flip that narrative on its head! Practice the abundance mindset, where you cultivate wealth and love and friendship simply because you believe you will have it (or already have it). Positivity and intention have power beyond our human capabilities can explain, if you choose to lean into it. As our friend Ronald Dahl once wrote, “Those who don’t believe in magic, never find it.”

Another idea would be to revisit the idea of “voting with your dollars.” Every dollar you spend ends up somewhere and supports something, so this is a good chance to learn where your money is going and what, or who, you are supporting. Consider shopping at small businesses, buying organic, or researching a company before purchasing their products — your money spent is your participation in their vision! Consider it tiny little investments in the missions that matter to you. You can work with your financial advisor to tailor your investments in order to leave an impact that’s larger than the sum of your net worth, too.

It’s important to remember that a dollar is whatever we want it to be — and that flexibility can empower us, or cripple us.  Here, at BARR Financial, we want to empower you. Check out our cash management system to see how we can help make this year your strongest financial year to date.

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