Your life is always changing. Is your budget keeping up with the times?
Most of the time, when I tell a client to draw up a budget for their personal finances, they look at me as if I just insulted their grandmother. But, writing a budget and sticking to it is one of the most effective ways of taking control of your personal finances. A well-designed budget shows you exactly where your money is going and enables you to easily redirect each dollar.
However, your budget isn’t a “one and done” document. There will be times in life where it’s necessary to review and revise your budget to ensure that it is still taking you in the right direction. You see, any change to your income or expenses can directly affect your tax brackets and liabilities. When your tax liabilities change, you need to re-evaluate your existing tax-planning strategies.
With that in mind, I’d like to share nine life-changing events that usher in the need to revise your budget.
1. When You or Your Spouse Receives a Pay Increase
An increase in compensation is always a welcomed blessing. You could use the extra funds to boost your lifestyle or your savings. As a business owner, you may not receive a pay raise in the traditional sense. However, you could double your business’s revenues or make more money than you expected.
If you operate a sole proprietorship, a partnership, an S Corporation or an LLC that is taxed as a sole proprietorship or as an S Corp, the additional revenues pass through to your personal income taxes. Because it can affect your taxes, this is a perfect time to re-evaluate your budget to reallocate your income and expenses.
You could also receive a raise through increased owner’s draws and distributions, if you have business partners who vote for such increases. This will also directly impact your personal taxes, making it a good idea to consult your financial planner and CPA while revising your budget.
2. When You or Your Spouse Takes a Pay Cut or Loses a Job
Sometimes, life moves in the opposite direction of our goals. If your business begins to lose revenue you might need to decrease the amount of money you’re taking from the company. The losses could pass through to your income taxes, lowering your adjusted gross income (AGI) and your tax bracket. When you feel the financial pinch of lost revenues or a decrease in your spouse’s pay, it’s time to re-evaluate your budget.
Similarly, if your significant other loses their job or you are forced to stop taking payment for a time while your business is in recovery mode, you’ll need to revisit your budget. You may have to reallocate money for a while in order to stay afloat during lean times.
3. When You’ve Depleted Your Emergency Funds
I’ve always been an advocate for saving an emergency fund. Typically, I tell clients to save enough money to cover three to six months’ of expenses, in case of a financial emergency. I hope that you never have to use it but if you do, you’ll need to replace it as soon as possible. Anytime you are forced to dip into your emergency fund, you need to revisit your budget. You’ll need to reallocate money for a little while to rebuild your emergency fund.
4. The Birth of a Child
Babies are such a joy, but raising a child costs a fortune. There are hospital bills, diapers, food, educational expenses, etc. Your budget may have been just fine for you and your spouse, but it’s not likely set up for all the expenses that come with your new little bundle of joy. Even if you’ve already got children, you need to review your budget to accommodate for a new addition.
5. When Your Marital Status Changes
Whether you’re getting married or divorced, your financial life is changing. Will you keep separate accounts or combine them? How will your divorce affect your taxes? Either way, you should review your budget before either event has been finalized. If you’re getting divorced, you may want to involve your financial planner and CPA to assist in separating liabilities, assets and bank accounts, as well as end-of-year tax planning.
6. You Are Buying a Home or Moving
If you’re moving or purchasing a new home, there are many things that can impact your personal finances. Perhaps your new home has HOA fees to consider. Maybe the city that you’re moving to has a higher cost of living than your previous one. Whatever the case, you should always re-evaluate your budget when your living situation changes.
7. When You’ve Paid Off Your Debts
What a liberating feeling it is to finally get out from under debt. When that time comes, you’ve got some choices to make. Will you increase your lifestyle? Are you going to save and invest more? When you’ve paid off your debts, it’s time to reallocate the money that was going toward paying your debts. Be thoughtful about what you want to do with this money, or else you could just fritter it away.
8. When You Experience a Major Tragedy
Unfortunately, tragedies are a part of life. Natural disasters could wipe out your home or your business. Accidents or disease could claim the life of loved ones. While you may have insurance to help with these scenarios, it might not be enough to replace income or cover the full expenses associated with your tragedies. For your own financial peace of mind, you should always re-evaluate your budget during these times.