November’s Financial To-Dos

November’s Financial To-Dos

Each month, we offer suggestions for ways to chip away at your financial goals. The idea is that by doing at least one thing each month, you can make significant progress.

Review your health insurance plan

Fall is when we are most likely to change or update health insurance plans. If you receive insurance through an employer, the workplace open enrollment period is often toward the end of the year. Take advantage of the opportunity to compare your different options.

If you are on a personal plan, the healthcare.gov 2018 open enrollment period runs from November 1 to December 15, 2017. If you do not like the plan that you’re on, now is the time to switch plans that would be effective January 1, 2018.

Deciding which plan is best for you can be complicated. Three big questions can help you make this important decision:

  1. What level of care will I use next year?
  2. How much cash do I have on hand for unexpected needs?
  3. What benefits does my company offer to incentivize a particular plan?

Those with a high probability of needing care typically should steer away from a high deductible plan. If you think you’ll end up spending a lot on medical bills, a high deductible plan will put a bigger burden on you before the insurance benefits kick in.

However, if you have little reason to believe you’ll need high levels of care, ask if the lower premium, high deductible plans will allow you to save more for your own medical expenses (usually using a Health Savings Account or “HSA”). This option is usually best for those who are healthy and have the cash-flow to cover the high deductibles. Some companies offer additional benefits like contributing to an HSA on behalf of the employee.

Start planning next summer’s vacations

With the days getting darker, it may be nice to think ahead to a warm summer vacation. Now is the time to start making plans for next summer’s vacations.

Planning this far in advance carries two benefits: you have more time to save if your vacation will be pricey, and you have higher odds of getting reservations in high-demand or exclusive locations.

Check your contentment level

November, especially with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, is a great time to pause for reflection. In particular, ask yourself how content you are financially. How have you progressed over the last 12-18 months? Are there any achievements you haven’t properly celebrated? Did you reach a milestone (such as income or level of wealth), but do not feel the satisfaction you thought you would?

If you’re feeling discontent, it may be human nature, or it may mean something needs to change. One way to measure this is to do a simple exercise, preferably with whomever helps you with your finances (such as a spouse or financial advisor). This exercise, which we call The Contentment Exercise, invites you to answer two questions:

  1. In which area of my financial life am I most happy right now?
  2. In which area of my financial life am I least happy right now?

In talking through and reflecting on these with dozens of couples, I have found it interesting how often insights or initiatives arise from the conversation. If nothing else, hopefully you’ll be able to spend some time realizing what you have to be thankful for.

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