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Cultivate Your Garden by Reviewing Your Investments and Estate Plan

The debt ceiling debate is now last week's news, but the financial shoes continue to drop. Standard & Poor's downgraded the credit rating on U.S. debt, prompting a substantial sell-off of stocks today on Wall Street. And the economic turbulence affecting the U.S. economy is unlikely to end anytime soon.

It's time for each of us to put his or her financial house in order. With stresses and uncertainties all around, few of us believe we are living in the best of possible worlds. To paraphrase the eighteenth-century philosopher Voltaire, however, each of us must cultivate our gardens. And that includes our financial gardens.

The first step, for those with 401(k)s or other retirement accounts, should be to review those accounts in light of the recent volatility in the markets. You need to know where your money is invested and how those investments are performing.

In fact, you should review all of your employee benefits, as well as your estate and tax planning arrangements. For example, take the question of insurance. Do you have too much insurance or not enough insurance to cover potential hits to your income from a disability? You should also consider whether your life insurance arrangements are sufficient to cover any dependents you may have, in the event of an untimely death.

A review of this type will lead naturally into estate planning questions. Are the beneficiaries in your will still as you want them? In the time since you put the documents in place, you may find there has been an intervening life event among you or your children, such as marriage, divorce or the birth of a child. Make sure your property will still go where you want to go.

Think of it as cultivating your garden.

Source: "A Financial To-Do List for the Rest of 2011," US News, 8-3-2011

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