The spring is a time when people start to take a look around and decide what they want to fix up before summer. Once the chaos of the holidays finally subsides and you have a minute to get back to normal, spring cleaning becomes the next logical option to welcome warmer weather and get leaner in all aspects of our lives. Spring cleaning doesn’t have to stop at your diet or finally organizing the coat closet. It can also extend to your finances.
Using the spring to reassess is a great time to get back on track before you get too far into the year. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Reassess your budget
It’s likely that you set a budget for 2014 in December or around the start of the year. How is that working out for you? Were you too ambitious or too conservative? Many major corporations cited the extraordinarily cold winter as a reason for missing earnings estimates. Did you have the same problem? Take a cold, hard look and find out where you are and what you need to do. This is also a good time to shred any lingering financial documents from the end of the year or year prior.
You should also be thinking about taxes if you haven’t already filed. Take a look at what you paid out quarterly last year. Do you expect those figure to be the same? The first quarter payment is due on tax day. Make sure you have enough money to cover that payment and any other taxes you may owe. Going over your taxes are also a good way to assess again what you took in for the year and what went out. Compare that to your budget for this year and identify gaps and gains.
Get a financial planner
Speaking of taxes are you planning to Turbo Tax it yet again? That’s fine, but you may also want to consider getting a financial planner, especially if you’re lucky enough to have a growing business. Putting cash into an IRA can be a great way to lower your tax bill and save for retirement at the same time. A lot of financial planners work for large brokerages, funds, or banks like Vanguard or Schwab. These guys are going to charge commissions and administrative fees on whatever they help you out with and lock you into the products they have to sell. This can be a tall order for small businesses and an expensive one.
Consider looking into a fee-only financial planner in your area. You can research who might offer services where you live by going to napfa.org. Fee-only advisors charge you a retainer up front and don’t have a book of products to sell you. Instead they will get your full financial picture and make recommendations and can even put you in an appropriate fund or account. The difference with this type of advisor beyond the fee structure is that they act as a fiduciary, meaning they can only act in your best interest, not the interest of the big financial firm they work for.
Get your insurance in order
In addition to retirement funds, taxes and savings, spring is a great time to assess your insurance situation. Under the new health care reform law you and all of your employees have to have some form of health insurance or you will face a tax penalty. In addition to health insurance, if you have a physical office, or provide services you should probably have some form of commercial or business liability insurance. These policies can help you in the event of a natural disaster, someone stealing your intellectual property, or even someone falling at work. Working with a fiduciary can also be a benefit here because they can also offer advice on insurance and tax efficient vehicles for business.
Most big insurers will let you bundle policies to save money. There are also specialist business insurance providers like Marsh that can help you craft a totally new policy if you offer a unique service that requires liability protection. Don’t shy away from insurance or specialist providers, even if it adds another bill, the protection is almost always worth it.
Consider having a sale
Did you get hit with bad weather? Do you have costs to make up from being in business when it was beyond cold outside? Probably so. Many major retailers are planning Black Friday style sales to bring in spring and cover losses. Can you afford to do the same? Working with an affordable printing service like VistaPrint can help you design and send a direct mail campaign or build sale flyers and other materials. Even if it’s not a big discount offering people a little something around the turn of each season can keep your business front of mind all year long.