Mid-Year Money Checkup: 5 Ways to Boost Your Financial Health

Summer financial planning

Summer is in full swing and so is peak travel season. And while July is a prime time to get outdoors and cash in on any plans you may have—at home or beyond—the reality is that financial concerns (and recent credit interest rate spikes) remain a pain point for many of us. Here are five steps to take to boost your financial health and reduce your worries this summer.

1. Assess your Budget
Do you have a budget? Midway through the year is a great time to build one. Money management apps typically provide monthly breakdowns that pinpoint where you might be overspending. A common strategy is to follow the 50/30/20 rule, but those percentages may differ for you, depending on your income and cost of living. Can you eliminate unused subscriptions or comparison shop for more favorable rates on home or auto insurance? Small cutbacks can add up to big savings.

2. Check your Credit Report
Obtain a free credit report from the major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian) through www.annualcreditreport.com and carefully examine it for any errors or discrepancies. Ensure that all your accounts are accurately reported and that there are no signs of fraudulent activity. Addressing any issues promptly will benefit your credit score which in turn can positively impact your future borrowing capabilities.

3. Evaluate your Investment Portfolio
If you currently have an investment portfolio, mid-year is an opportune time to assess its performance over the past few months and rebalance if needed. Ask yourself: does my current strategy align with my long-term financial goals and risk tolerance? If you’re new to investing or feeling uncertain about what money moves to make, consider connecting with a financial advisor who can offer guidance.

4. Develop a Savings Strategy
Do you anticipate any large expenses in the latter half of the year such as home improvements or educational costs? Start setting aside funds or exploring financing options in advance to minimize future stress. Consider automated, recurring deductions from your paycheck that can funnel into a savings account. Not able to save just yet? That’s okay! Create a reminder to revisit again in 2-3 months’ time.

5. Make a Plan to Pay Down Debt
This is a good time to evaluate your outstanding debts, such as credit card balances, loans, or mortgages. Consider the balances, current interest rates, and payment terms for each. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your debt, explore the option of a Debt Management Program (DMP) which could potentially lower your monthly obligation and improve your credit score over time. There is no one-size-fits-all solution so chatting with a counselor from our non-profit partner GreenPath Financial Wellness can help you determine if a DMP is a good fit for your situation.

This article is shared by our partners at GreenPath Financial Wellness, a trusted national non-profit.

Protecting Your Loved Ones from Elder Fraud

Adult daughter caring for Aging Parent

In 2022, Phyllis Wiseberg, a 90-year-old widow lost $20,000 when cybercriminals withdrew the money from her account. Her story, shared by the National Council on Aging, is devastating, but unfortunately not uncommon. Financial exploitation is a reality many seniors face, especially in the age of online scams. Here are actions you can take to help financially safeguard your loved ones.

What can I do to prevent elder fraud?
Communicate. In a post-pandemic world, it’s easy to lose touch, but maintaining communication is key. Remind your loved ones to avoid disclosing personal financial details via email, phone, or text. Sign them up for the National Do Not Call Registry and have a candid conversation about the most common scams targeting seniors.

Designate trusted contacts. Connect with their financial institution for information on adding a trusted contact (or a view-only user) to their account — this is someone who can be contacted if there are questionable transactions taking place or if they can’t be reached. This is a safer alternative to a joint account which allows someone to withdraw funds directly.

Monitor accounts. Vigilance is easier with tech support. Set up online tools designed to detect suspicious transactions, fraud, and identity theft. Some programs will walk you through reporting and recouping any losses that have occurred.

Appoint financial power of attorney. If your loved one becomes incapacitated, it’s crucial they be financially safeguarded. Bypass the standard power-of-attorney form and enlist the help of a lawyer to customize the form according to their needs, whether it’s filing taxes or managing property. Free and low-cost options are available through Eldercare Locator.

Vet caregivers. If you’re seeking aid for healthcare or home management, hire someone through a bonded agency that utilizes a rigorous screening process. Be vigilant during the post-hire period as well—requesting updates regularly and observing in-person when possible.

What can I do if elder fraud has occurred?
Alert financial institutions. Contact their bank, credit union, or wire transfer service to request a cancellation or reversal of any fraudulent transactions if possible. At minimum they can actively monitor their accounts. You can also alert the Social Security Administration and the major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax) to limit damage incurred from instances of identity theft.

Report abuse. If you suspect your loved one is being exploited, report it to your local Adult Protective Services agency (which may have a different name depending on where they live). APS connects to social service programs advocating on behalf of older and disabled adults who need assistance. You can also report abuse to their local District Attorney’s office and request they prosecute the responsible party. If the fraud involved an online scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (for mail scams).

Offer support. Victims of financial exploitation often experience deep shame or grief. Be patient as they process their emotions and be vocal in your support while you help navigate next steps. Proactive gestures — like running errands or planning family events — can minimize stress.
Create a game plan. Consider setting up regular family meetings to address budgeting, bill payments, or any lingering financial concerns moving forward. GreenPath Financial Wellness offers worksheets and guides that can help get you started.

This article is shared by our partners at GreenPath Financial Wellness, a trusted national non-profit.

IRA: Traditional vs. Roth

Cheerful mature husband man cutting vegetables cooking food meal in the kitchen while his wife woman embracing hugging him helping prepare salad together at home.

Wheelhouse Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)* serve as tax-advantage investments that earn significantly higher dividends than a traditional checking or savings account. The rates and returns are more stable and less risky than other forms of investments, so you can spend more time enjoying life and less time worrying about the future.

Wheelhouse offers two types of IRAs: Traditional and Roth. It might seem difficult to navigate their differences, so we’re here to help break it down.

With a Traditional IRA, you pay taxes later. Contributions to your Traditional IRA are tax-deductible, meaning you do not pay income taxes on the deposits going in. Thus, your investments grow tax-deferred. When you’re ready to withdraw during retirement, you will pay federal income taxes on your contributions and earnings.

With a Roth IRA, you pay taxes now. The contributions you make to your Roth IRA are after-tax, meaning you pay income taxes on the deposits going in. Because of this, the investments grow tax-free. When you withdraw your contributions and earnings during retirement, you will pay no federal income taxes on your withdrawals.

Which is right for you?
Choosing between a Traditional and Roth IRA is as simple as asking yourself, “Do I want a tax break now or a tax break later?”

In general, if you believe you are at a lower tax rate today than you will be when you withdraw your funds, a Roth IRA might be better suited for you (AARP). Traditional IRAs are usually the right choice for high-income earners who are currently in high tax brackets, whereas a Roth IRA might be ideal for average earners who will likely stay in the same or move up in income brackets as their lives progress.

There are additional differences to account for as well, including when funds can be withdrawn without penalties. Generally, Roth IRAs have more flexible withdrawal rules. As always, consult with your tax advisor to determine which IRA option is best for you.

To get started or to learn more, visit our website or speak with a Wheelhouse professional at 619-297-4835

*Wheelhouse IRA deposits are federally insured by the NCUA. Please consult your tax advisor regarding any IRA account. Other terms and conditions may apply. Membership is required.

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