Information from the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions

Financial Wellness Checklist for Washington State Employees

Get your finances in order with this financial wellness checklist.

Do a personal financial inventory

  • Review your spending habits for the past 3 months
    Review where your money is going. Review your account statements for the past three months. Keep track of fixed expenses, variable expenses as well as areas where you might be able to cut costs.
  • Organize your important financial information in a binder or efile
    Have all of your important financial information in a binder or efile so you can easily access when you need it. Make sure it is stored in a secure location.
  • Test your tax withholding
    The IRS encourages everyone to use the Withholding Calculator to perform a quick “paycheck checkup.”  This is even more important this year because of recent changes to the tax law for 2018.

    Use the IRS tax withholding calculator.
  • Check your annual credit report
    Obtain your free annual credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com
  • Check your credit score
    If you don’t have a general idea of what your credit score is, obtain it from FICO, Vantage, Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion.

Get control of your monthly budget and payments

  • Develop or update a monthly budget
    Consider developing a monthly budget. A budget will help you with achieving your financial goals.

    See: DFI’s guide to setting up a budget.
  • Set up automatic bill payments
    Never miss a payment again. Set up automatic payments to your credit card bills, loans, and other bills.
  • Set up automatic savings
    Pay yourself first each month and automatically have money deposited into your savings and or retirement plan.

Secure your financial accounts

  • Set strong passwords
    Choose strong passwords for your online financial accounts. Your password should be 8 characters or more and include numbers, special characters, and uppercase letters, if allowed.
  • Enable account alerts
    Talk to your financial institution about setting up account alerts for withdrawals and other transactions. Many financial institutions offer this feature.
  • Regularly check your bank accounts and credit statements
    Check your accounts at least once a month for any suspicious charges. Report them right away.
  • Educate yourself about the latest scams
    Stay informed and up to date about the latest techniques that scam artists are using to steal your money.

    See: Fighting Fraud 101 Brochure
    See: DFI’s Scams and Fraud Information

Prepare for emergencies

  • Build an emergency savings fund
    Your emergency savings should be able to cover up to three to six months of living expenses.

    See: DFI’s guide to setting up an emergency savings fund.
  • Reassess and top off your emergency fund each year
    If you borrow money from your emergency savings account or living expenses rise, be sure to top off your emergency savings account.
  • Have cash stored for a natural disaster
    In the event of a major emergency, ATM networks may be down. Store some cash in a safe place in case you don’t have access to your financial institution.

Reduce your debt

  • Develop a plan to pay off debt
    Develop and stick with strategy to pay off your debt.

    See: DFI’s tips and strategies for paying off debt.
  • Make extra payments as your budget allows
    As money allows, make extra payments to your credit cards and other loans.
  • Plan and save to make an extra mortgage payment
    If money allows, make an extra mortgage payment this year. Just one extra mortgage payment per year can shave years off the term of your mortgage.
  • Get debt help if you need it
    If you find yourself drowning in debt, consider talking to a certified credit counselor.

    Learn about how to find a credit counselor near you.

Save for retirement

  • Calculate your retirement needs
    Work with a trusted financial planner to calculate your retirement needs. Doing so now will help you get an idea of how much you need to save for your future.
  • Check if you are on track with your financial goals
    If you have already set up retirement saving goals, do an annual check to make sure you are on track
  • Consider talking to a financial planner
    Financial planners can help you develop a financial plan, get out of debt, and save for your future.
  • Learn about the Deferred Compensation Program
    The Deferred Compensation Program is a tax-deferred program. It lowers your taxable income while you are working and it delays payments of income taxes on your investments until you withdraw your funds.

    Learn more at: http://www.drs.wa.gov/dcp/
  • Nearing retirement? Take advantage of resources from the Department of Retirement Systems
    If you are nearing retirement be sure to take advantage of resources and seminars from the Department of Retirement Systems.

    See: Department of Retirement Systems Nearing Retirement Information

Take care of your family

  • Determine if life insurance is right for you and your family
    Consider looking into life insurance and determine if it is right for you and your family.

    See: Office of the Insurance Commissioner: Understanding Life Insurance
  • Consider setting up a financial power of attorney
    In a power of attorney for finances document, you choose someone you trust with your money to act on your behalf and help you with your money, property and belongings.

    The Northwest Justice Project has information about setting up a financial power of attorney.
  • Consider a 529 college savings plan for your kids
    If you have kids look into setting up a college savings plan for them. A great place to start is the Guaranteed Education Tuition program offered by the State of Washington.

Increase your financial literacy

  • Visit DFI’s financial education website
    Obtain local financial education resources and information, find a money management class, and increase your financial knowledge.

    See: DFI’s financial education website
  • Order free money management publications from DFI
    Increase your financial knowledge with DFI’s Right on the Money publication, investor education publications, and Guide to Home Loans.

    See: DFI’s financial education publications
  • Test your investor knowledge with a quiz
    Take FINRA’s investor knowledge quiz to test your knowledge of investing and financial markets.

    See: FINRA’s Investor Knowledge Quiz