Daily Money - Midyear money checkups are so brat

plus SZA/Simone + socks trends
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July 10, 2024 • Issue #246
Dollar Scholar

Hi y’all —

Can you believe we just passed the halfway point of 2024? 

Things are moving quickly. The presidential election is heating up, there’s a new House of the Dragon season airing, and we’re in the thick of Brat Summer. But in the wise words of Miley Cyrus, we can’t stop: We gotta keep this party going, and to do that we need to conduct a midyear money checkup.

Although the economic vibes are still off, in part because of the will-they-won’t-they situation we’re in with the Fed, this is a perfect time to get your financial house in order. I’m willing to bet some aspect of your life has changed since January, so update your plans. Crank up the AC, open your laptop and work one by one through the six tasks listed below.

By the end, you’ll be well-positioned to slay the rest of 2024. Here’s how to conduct a midyear financial checkup

✅ Revisit — or adjust — your financial goals

Gerald Grant, Jr., president of G Financial Group in alliance with Equitable Advisors, says a midyear checkup “gives you an opportunity to turn the clock back to January,” allowing you to stop and say, “This is what I said I wanted to do. Am I actually doing it?” 

Say you made a New Year’s resolution to save $500 a month in 2024. But seven months into the year, you’ve been unsuccessful in actually putting that cash away. This is your chance to reset. 

Maybe you need to recommit to the goal by reviewing your budget and finding places you can cut back (might I suggest axing unused subscriptions?). Or maybe you need to change your target and set a goal that’s more in line with your income.

✅ Update your emergency fund

Many experts recommend having three to six months of expenses set aside for a rainy day (unexpected job loss, car repairs, medical bills and so on). But that number isn’t static. The cost of your everyday life has likely changed in 2024, whether that’s due to rising grocery bills or increasing energy costs, so you might want to run your calculations again.

This is also a nice time to ensure your emergency fund is in the right place. The Federal Reserve still hasn’t slashed interest rates, meaning high-yield savings accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs) are still a pretty sweet deal right now. 

Summer is expensive because I don’t know how to be outside without a $10 iced drink

✅ Make sure you’re on track for retirement

When you’re dealing with the daily grind, it’s easy for retirement to sneak up on you: “No one thinks about retirement and five years go by, 10 years go by, and all of a sudden I’m 60,” Grant says.

Keep your eye on the ball. During your midyear checkup, Schwab suggests you verify that you’re contributing at least enough to your 401(k) to unlock the company match. Otherwise, you’re missing out on what’s essentially free money.

BTW, did you get a raise in the first half of the year? If so, bump up your retirement contributions. In 2024, you’re able to put up to $23,000 in a 401(k) or 403(b), plus $7,500 if you’re over age 50.

✅ Pull your credit report (for free)

Last year, the nation’s three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — announced that they were permanently extending a pandemic policy that gave Americans access to free weekly online credit reports. This was a big deal because before COVID-19, you could only get one per bureau per year.

Looking at your credit report weekly is overkill, but the National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s Bruce McClary told me in Issue #208 that folks should “at the very least” pull it once a month to make sure the data on there is accurate. If you haven’t done this recently, now is the time. Head to annualcreditreport.com to get started.

If you see something unfamiliar or wrong, take action, because it could be a sign of identity theft. You can dispute credit report errors by reaching out to the bureau behind the report, telling them what’s incorrect and sharing proof to substantiate your claim.

✅ Review your tax withholding

Even though it feels like April *just* passed, taxes are a year-round issue. 

H&R Block suggests you check your withholding and make sure it aligns with your lifestyle and goals. The stakes are high: If you withhold too much, you’ll get less in your paycheck now but a bigger tax refund later on. If you withhold too little, you’ll get more in your paycheck now but could owe the IRS later on. 

It’s better to learn which side you’re going to fall on sooner rather than later so there are no surprises come tax time. If you need to change your withholding, you just need to file a new W-4 with your employer.

Speaking of paperwork: The Taxpayer Advocate Service also recommends you round up your records, tell the government about any name or address changes, set up an IRS online account and more as part of your midyear checkup.

✅ Start thinking about the holidays

I know it sounds presposterous, but we are a short 168 days away from Christmas. No matter how you celebrate, the holidays tend to be an expensive proposition: In 2023, consumers said they planned to spend an average of $1,652 on gifts, non-gifts and experiences.

Grant suggests you start preparing now, determining how much you’d like to spend and working backwards to put away a little each month. This way, he says, you’re “creating your own bank.” By saving up what you need for December and using those funds to pay your credit card bills, you’re avoiding the need to run up a balance with a high interest rate.

The bottom line
(but please don't tell me you scrolled past all of my hard work)

Taking care of the above tasks now will help us through the next six months — and beyond.

Buzz Lightyear
via Giphy

Smart MONEY MOVE
higher car insurance rates? in THIS economy?!

CarWith rates rising 20% over the last year, you could be paying wayyy too much for car insurance. Let us help you navigate the options and find coverage that can protect your family without draining your budget. Switching providers could potentially save you $$$ on your premium, after all — and in *this* economy, that’s more than welcome.

Check out Money’s list of best car insurance companies and see whether you can save.

ADVERTISEMENT

Receipt of the week
check out this wild celebrity purchase
Rebel Wilson
via Instagram

Actress Rebel Wilson recently revealed that she was only paid $3,500 for her performance in the 2011 comedy Bridesmaids. Wilson wrote in her new book that she actually ended up in the red — she “lost money because I had to pay to go to the premiere, like, to buy my dress and everything.” She later negotiated a $10 million payday for Pitch Perfect 3.

Internet gold
five things I'm loving online right now
1
Here’s a new thing to worry about: Are your socks making you look *gasp* old? Apparently, there’s a major gap between Gen Zers (who prefer trendy mid-calf socks) and millennials (who grew up wearing no-shows). Here’s an analysis in the Wall Street Journal and Vogue coverage of actress Jennifer Lawrence Bravely Step[ping] Out in Millennial Socks.
2
Consider this my letter of recommendation for My Lady Jane on Prime.
3
SZA — current musician and former gymnast — met Simone Biles — GOAT — and it was extremely cute. “When it was clear to me that I wasn’t gonna be a national gymnast, I was like, ‘OK, let me see what I can do or see what else I could be good at,’” SZA told the Olympian. Gold medals and Grammys for all.
4
Congratulations to Lilly Dunn, a recent high school graduate in Tennessee who just got named the best welder in the nation (!). Lilly notched the win by creating a sunken pirate ship, but her real-world skills are marketable: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the U.S. will see nearly 43,000 openings for welders, cutters and the like annually for the next few years.

401(k)ITTY CONTRIBUTION
send me cute pictures of your pets, please
Obie and Winnie
via Jenny Hooper
Obie Wan Kenobie and Winnifred Sanderson are waiting eagerly to hear tails of how your midyear money checkup went. 

See you next week.

P.S. I got a bunch of responses to last issue about $2 bills! Scholar Lourdes wrote that she has a stash of old $2 bills, and Scholar Jeff said he likes to use them as tips on cruises. And this is super cool — Scholar Smith told me that in 1976, a lot of people got $2 bills that they then put bicentennial stamps on and had canceled as proof they got the $2 bill on the first day it was issued. (I looked it up, and it's a thing on eBay!)

P.P.S. How are you doing on your financial goals for 2024 so far? Do you think you’re the best in the world at anything? What’s your favorite Miley Cyrus song? Send Dolla Scholla hollas to julia@money.com. They're my favorite.

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