9 Things Your Financial To-Do-List Should Include

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Managing your finances can feel like another full-time job. While there are things you should be doing regularly throughout the year (like monitoring your monthly budget and making sure to pay all of your bills), others may only roll around once a year (like filing your taxes).

To help keep your finances on track, we've compiled an annual to-do list for all of those activities that are best tackled early in every new year. Here are nine things that should be on everyone's financial to-do list.

Key Takeaways

  • Your annual financial to-do list should start with checking your credit report, credit scores, and debt-to-income ratio to assess where you are now with respect to debt and credit health.
  • Calculating your net worth (the value of all your assets compared to all your debts) is a good way to get an overview of your financial health.
  • Take a look at your retirement savings and then create new financial goals for the year.
  • Revamp your budget based on your new goals.
  • File your taxes and look at whether you should adjust your tax withholding for the new year.

1. Check Your Credit Report

Your credit report and credit history are foundations of your financial health. Good credit can help you get approved for loans or credit cards when you need them, and get you favorable interest rates.

You are legally entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus. You can order them from the individual bureaus or you can order any of the three at AnnualCreditReport.com.


You can also get one free credit report per week from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian through December 2023.

When you check your credit report, look at your personal information, balances reported, any negative remarks such as late payments or collections, and any new credit applications or inquiries. If you find errors or new accounts you didn't open, contact the credit bureau reporting the information to dispute it.

2. Check Your Credit Scores

Credit scores are generally not included on your credit report, and are a reflection of your credit health at any given moment. Your credit scores can impact not only how much you are able to borrow, but also your ability to rent an apartment or even to get certain kinds of jobs.

There are multiple ways you can get your credit score, including free sources such as your credit card provider or bank. You can also pay for your credit score from FICO or any of the three major credit bureaus.

3. Calculate Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Your debt-to -income ratio (DTI) is another key indicator of how well you're doing financially. To calculate it, you add up all your debts and divide by your gross income. If you're applying for a mortgage or another type of loan, lenders will look at this number to determine whether you can afford to take on new debt.


Even if you don't plan to apply for a loan, your DTI can tell you whether there's a red flag in your finances. Generally, a DTI of 36% or lower is considered good, while a DTI of over 43% is considered too high.

Calculating your DTI is also a good lead-in exercise for calculating your net worth.

4. Calculate Your Net Worth

Your annual financial to-do list should include an updated net worth statement. In fact, ideally you would calculate your net worth quarterly to keep track of progress. But at the very least, you should calculate your net worth at the beginning of each year as a way to monitor financial progress in an objective way.

You calculate your net worth by adding up the value of your assets and subtracting your liabilities (what you owe). Assets include cash, investments, real estate, cars, and other belongings. Liabilities are debts like a mortgage, student loan, auto loan, or credit card balance.

Ideally, your net worth increases with age, though there are times when it's expected to drop—for instance, if you take on new student loans or buy your first house. Once you've calculated your net worth, you can work on a plan to increase it by paying down debt, growing your investments, or saving more money.

5. Review Your Retirement Plan Contributions

In calculating your net worth, you should have looked at the value of your retirement savings. Are you on track to reach your savings goals? Can you save more? If you have an employer-sponsored 401(k) with a company match, try to at least contribute up to the point where you're getting the full benefit of the company match. That's free money.

If you don't have an employer-sponsored plan, have you set up a traditional IRA? For any type of retirement plan, this is a good time to review your investment choices and make changes if necessary, keeping in mind your long-term goals.

6. Set New Financial Goals

To stay motivated toward reaching your short-term and long-term financial goals, you should review them at the start of each year and make any changes. Did you meet one of your goals last year? Do you need to reassess how to prioritize your existing goals?

Examples of short-term goals are creating an emergency fund, paying off a credit card balance, or taking a big vacation. Long-term goals include buying a home, starting a business, or paying for your kids to go to college. Whatever you aim for, make sure the goals are realistic so you can stick with them.

7. Set Up Your Budget for the New Year

Situations change throughout a year, and a new budget to go along with your new goals will keep you on the right track. If you don't have a budget already, now is the time to create one.

If you do already have a budget, take a close look at your expenses. Are there any that have grown or shrunk since the last time you updated your budget? Look at your income as well. If it's gone down, but your expenses haven't, you may need to cut back in spending in one or more areas.

8. File Your Income Taxes

You know that you'll have to do taxes. Even though you have until April 15 (or later if you file for an extension), you might as well get a head start.

Companies are required to send tax forms such as your W2 and 1099s by January 31. Make it a goal to gather all the paperwork you need by then to make the task easier. 

Doing your taxes early gives you the benefit of having time to check and double-check, making sure that you're getting every deduction and tax credit available to you. If you're due a refund, it also means you'll get the money that much sooner.

9. Review Your Income Tax Withholding

If your situation has changed (for example, if you got married or divorced, had a child, lost a dependent, bought a house, had a big change in income, owed taxes last year, or got a large refund), you should redo your W-4.

If you have changes to make to your W-4 concerning filing status or the number of dependents, you might also want to take the opportunity to review and update your beneficiaries and your will

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the 50/30/20 rule for money?

The 50/30/20 rule of thumb is a budgeting guideline. If you follow it, you'll put 50% of your income toward things you need, such as housing and groceries; 30% toward "wants," such as hobbies or entertainment; and 20% toward savings. It's a rough guideline, rather than a hard-and-fast rule.

What are some examples of financial goals?

Smart financial goals include starting an emergency fund, paying off debt, saving for retirement, saving for a home, paying off a car, and planning for fun such as a bucket-list vacation.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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