Complete the Checkup
Remember to refer to the Personal Checkup Checklist as you complete each section.
Review your earnings and paycheck deductions to see where your hard-earned money is going.
Gather your paycheck(s).
Gather a copy of your most recent paycheck. If you have more than one job, be sure to collect paystubs for each place of employment. If your household has another adult who contributes to household income, ask them to collect their paystubs, too.
Make sense of your deductions.
The wages that you are earning and the amount that you bring home differ from one another. You may have asked yourself, Why is that? Where is my money going? To answer these questions, take a close look at your paycheck.
As you look at your paystub (or pay advice), you will see current pay period and year-to-date (YTD) totals for earnings, taxes, and deductions. As you review your deductions, be on the lookout for these items:
Please note, many of these will be abbreviated on your paystub. Contact your payroll office if you do not understand the abbreviation.
- Employee’s Share of the Medicare Tax: This is a tax that funds the Medicare health insurance program. For more information on Medicare, visit www.medicare.gov. Please note that this tax is NOT part the federal taxes paid for income tax purposes. This tax is considered to be a payroll tax paid by everyone who is working. Your employer also pays a share of the Medicare Tax, although this may not be listed on your paystub.
- Federal Tax Withholding: This is the money withheld as prepayment of your annual income tax liability. This money goes directly from your employer, on your behalf, to local, state, and federal tax authorities. After filing your taxes each April 15, you’ll know if you owe additional money to the government or if you prepaid too much and will receive a refund.
- Employee’s share of the Federal Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance: Commonly abbreviated as OASDI, this tax is better known as Social Security. While most wage earners must pay this tax, there is an exception for those who are participating in certain governmental or public employer retirement plans. For more information on Social Security, visit www.ssa.gov. If your wages are subject to this tax, then your employer also pays a share of the OASDI tax.
- Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA): The FICA tax is comprised of both the Medicare tax and the OASDI tax.
- Employer-paid benefits are contributions or payments that your employer has made on your behalf. These dollar amounts are not deducted from your pay. Common examples include the portion of your health insurance premium that your employer pays and any contributions your employer makes to your retirement plan.
- Employee-paid benefits like your health insurance premiums, retirement contributions, and short-term disability insurance are typically each listed separately on your paystub.
- Wage Garnishments: If you owe child support, have defaulted on student loans, have unpaid back taxes, unpaid court fines or restitution, you might find that they are automatically deducted from your wages.
For more information on the deductions listed above or ones not mentioned here, contact your employer’s payroll office.
Complete this worksheet.
Take stock of your household’s income by gathering your paycheck(s) and completing the Make $ense of your Pay Worksheet. This worksheet will help you to understand your earnings and deductions.
Keeping your money safe and ensuring that you have access to it are essential to your financial well-being. Check-up on your financial accounts to be sure that you know where your money is and that you can readily review account details.
Gather your account information.
Gather institution names, types of accounts, web addresses, and contact information for each financial account that you have. These accounts include savings, checking, retirement accounts, college savings accounts, other investments, and flexible spending accounts.
Complete this worksheet.
With the information gathered from all of your financial accounts, complete the Financial Accounts Inventory. It will help you keep track of all of your accounts, at-a-glance.
It is important to know what you owe. Take stock of your current financial liabilities so that you can manage your debt wisely.
Request your credit report.
Obtain a copy of your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) entitles you to a free credit report annually from each reporting agency. In order to request your free report(s), visit www.annualcreditreport.com. This is the website established by the federal government. The three credit bureaus from which you can request reports are: Equifax (1-800-525-6285), Experian (1-800-397-3742), and TransUnion (1-800-680-7289).
Review your credit report for accuracy.
Here’s what to look for as you review the report:
- Late payments on accounts. If your report contains late payments, check that information against your payment records to verify.
- Debt-to-credit limit ratios. This information compares your debt balances to your available credit on your revolving accounts (e.g. credit cards).
- Collection activity. This information shows when a delinquent payment has gone to collections.
- Bankruptcies, liens, or judgments. Notice if major financial challenges are listed on your credit report.
- Active accounts. Are there active accounts that you never closed? Or opened? Verify that accounts that you closed are, indeed, closed. If there are accounts open that you never opened, contact the credit reporting agency.
- Inquiries. Review who has requested your credit file.
Gather your credit card and loan statements.
Gather all of your most recent credit card and loan statements.
Make sense of the fine print.
You don’t need an advanced degree to understand the fine print on your credit card and loan statements. Here is a glossary of common terms.
Credit Card Terminology
- Annual Percentage Rate (APR):"Annualized percentage rate" refers to the interest rate for a whole year (as opposed to a monthly fee or rate).
- Introductory APR: This is the initial rate offered by a credit card company to incentivize a person to apply for the card. In turn, at the close of the introductory period, the APR typically increases. The Credit CARD Act of 2009 requires that introductory periods last at least six months.
- Penalty APR: This is a charge assessed when the credit card user violates the terms and conditions of the card. For example, if a user doesn’t make a payment on time, they may be assessed the penalty APR.
- Variable Rate APR:This is an interest that changes over time when certain pre-determined other variables fluctuate.
- Fixed Rate APR: This is an interest rate that is fixed or set at a certain percent for the time period outlined in the loan or credit card agreement. The APR cannot change during this defined period of time.
- Different APRs for Different Transactions-Check your credit agreement(s) to see if your credit card applies different APRs to different transactions. Generally, a cash advance transaction has a higher APR than a retail purchase.
- Purchase: Refers to an item (or items) purchased with the credit card.
- Credit Card Cash Advance: This is a cash loan taken out by using the credit card to withdraw cash at an ATM. A credit card cash advance typically carries a transaction fee and an APR that is much higher than that of a purchase or balance transfer.
- Finance Charges: Calculated by using the APR and the balance. If you carry different types of balances (e.g. purchases, cash advances) on your card, you may be charged different finance charges because these types of transactions typically carry different interest rates.
- Annual Fee: This is a yearly fee charged for use of the credit card.
- Late Payment: A late payment of a credit card or loan carries negative consequences. These consequences vary as a result of contractual agreements and frequency of late payments. They may include: late fee(s), an increase in your interest rate (a penalty or default rate), the forfeiture of a promotional 0% APR on a balance transfer credit card, the inclusion of your delinquent payment activity on your credit report, and adverse impacts on your credit score.
- Over-the-limit Fee: If you have agreed to permit the credit card issuer to allow you to make charges that exceed your credit limit on the card and you have made excessive charges, you will be assessed an over-the-limit fee.
Visit the Federal Reserve Board's Guide to Credit Cards and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's "Know Before You Owe" for helpful tips and resources. In addition, be sure to check out this list of definitions of key terms of credit card contracts.
Adjustable Rate Loan: A loan that carries an interest rate that changes during the term of the loan.
Default: The failure to comply with terms of loan agreement, such as being delinquent in making timely payments.
Deferment: The act of developing an agreement with the lender to delay payments on the principal of the loan for a specified time. Interest accrues on the principal during the deferment period. Thus, while it may be beneficial to delay repayment of the loan in the near term, such consideration must be weighed against the higher cost of repayment over the long run.
Fixed Rate Loan: A loan that carries an interest rate that does not change during the term of the loan.
Forbearance: The reduction or postponement of the monthly repayment amount on the loan for a specified time period. The arrangement may also include an agreement to extend the repayment period. The borrower pays interest on the loan during the forbearance period.
Interest Rate: The borrower's cost to borrow money from a lender. The interest rate is typically expressed as an annual percentage of the principal.
Late Charge: The penalty charge that must be paid for not making a timely payment on a loan.
Loan Term: The length of time that a loan is due and payable.
Origination Fee:The fee charged for processing a loan application and implementing disbursement of monies.
Minimum Payment: The minimum payment that the borrower must make to the lender on a regular basis.
Payment Schedule: The outline of the number and amount of regularly scheduled payments to be made on a loan. If the loan has an adjustable interest rate, the actual payment amounts will vary over time and, therefore, differ from the payment schedule.
Points: A fee charged by the lender for making the loan for the borrower. Generally, one "point" is equal to 1% of the principal amount of the loan. Points are most commonly affiliated with mortgages.
Prepayment Penalty: The charge assessed for paying off a loan before it reaches maturity. Not all loans carry a prepayment penalty. If you wish to pay your loan ahead of the payment schedule, check the terms of your loan agreement to be sure that you can do so without incurring penalty charges.
Principal: The amount of money borrowed with a loan.
Promissory Note: A legal contract in which the borrower promises to pay back the loan.
Term: The period of time during which repayments of the loan are made. The loan must be paid in full at the end of the term.
For common loan terms and banking phrases, visit this resource from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Complete this worksheet.
From your current statements, complete the Credit & Loan Inventory to make a list of your outstanding balances, monthly payment amounts, interest rates and estimated payoff dates for each type of debt/liability that you have individually, or in partnership with another person.
It is important to understand your insurance coverage before you need to use it. Take a few minutes now to review your current coverage and the insurance options available to you.
As you audit your coverage, be sure to ask important questions like: who or what is covered by this policy, how much will I have to pay out of pocket if I have to see a doctor or file a claim, and how much insurance is enough?
Gather your policy information.
Gather information on all your insurance policies (homeowner’s/renter’s, car, medical, dental, life).
Brush up on insurance lingo.
- Deductible: A fixed dollar amount during the benefit period (usually a year) that an insured person pays before the insurer starts to make payments for covered medical services. Plans may have both per individual and family deductibles.
- Premium: Agreed upon fees paid for coverage of medical benefits for a defined benefit period. Premiums can be paid by employers, unions, employees, or shared by both the insured individual and the plan sponsor.
- Coinsurance: A form of medical cost sharing in a health insurance plan that requires an insured person to pay a stated percentage of medical expenses after the deductible amount, if any, was paid.
- Copayment: A form of medical cost sharing in a health insurance plan that requires an insured person to pay a fixed dollar amount when a medical service is received. The insurer is responsible for the rest of the reimbursement. There may be separate copayments for different services. Some plans require that a deductible first be met for some specific services before a copayment applies.
- Maximum plan dollar limit: The maximum amount payable by the insurer for covered expenses for the insured and each covered dependent while covered under the health plan. Plans can have a yearly and/or a lifetime maximum dollar limit. The most typical of maximums is a lifetime amount of $1 million per individual.
- Maximum out-of-pocket expense: The maximum dollar amount a group member is required to pay out of pocket during a year. Until this maximum is met, the plan and group member shares in the cost of covered expenses. After the maximum is reached, the insurance carrier pays all covered expenses, often up to a lifetime maximum.
- Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) Plan: An indemnity plan where coverage is provided to participants through a network of selected health care providers (such as hospitals and physicians). The enrollees may go outside the network, but would incur larger costs in the form of higher deductibles, higher coinsurance rates, or nondiscounted charges from the providers.
- Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) Plan: A health care system that assumes both the financial risks associated with providing comprehensive medical services (insurance and service risk) and the responsibility for health care delivery in a particular geographic area to HMO members, usually in return for a fixed, prepaid fee. Depending on the type of HMO, physicians in the the HMO medical group may or may not see non-HMO patients.
- Auto Liability: Coverage that protects against financial loss because of legal liability for motor vehicle related injuries (bodily injury and medical payments) or damage to the property of others caused by accidents arising out of ownership, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle (including recreational vehicles such as motor homes). Commercial is defined as all motor vehicle policies that include vehicles that are used primarily in connection with business, commercial establishments, activity, employment, or activities carried on for gain or profit. No Fault is defined by the state concerned.
- Declarations Page: Policy statements regarding the applicant and property covered such as demographic and occupational information, property specifications and expected mileage per year .
- Deductible: Portion of the insured loss (in dollars) paid by the policy holder.
- Personal Injury Protection Coverage (PIP): Automobile coverage available in states that have enacted no-fault laws or other auto reparation reform laws for treatment of injuries to the insured and passengers of the insured.
- Premium: Money charged for the insurance coverage reflecting expectation of loss.
- Third Party: A person other than the insured or insurer who has incurred losses or is entitled to receive payment due to acts or omissions of the insured.
- Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Policy option for bodily injury or property losses caused by a motorist with coverage insufficient to cover total dollar amount of losses. Compensation for the injured party is equal to the difference between the losses incurred and the liability covered by the motorist at fault.
- Actual Cash Value: Repayment value for indemnification due to loss or damage of property; in most cases it is replacement cost minus depreciation
- Coinsurance: A clause contained in most property insurance policies to encourage policy holders to carry a reasonable amount of insurance. If the insured fails to maintain the amount specified in the clause (Usually at least 80%), the insured shares a higher proportion of the loss.
- Construction and Alteration Liability: Covers the liability of an insured to persons who have incurred bodily injury or property damage from alterations involving demolition, new construction or change in size of a structure on the insured's premises.
- Federal Flood Insurance: Coverage for qualifying residents and businesses in flood prone regions through the National Flood Insurance Act, a federally subsidized flood insurance program enacted in 1968.
- Homeowner's Insurance: Package policy combining real and personal property coverage with personal liability coverage. Coverage applicable to the dwelling, appurtenant structures, unscheduled personal property and additional living expense are typical. Includes mobile homes at a fixed location.
- Loss of Use Insurance: Policy providing protection against loss of use due to damage or destruction of property.
- Losses Incurred: Includes claims that have been paid and/or have amounts held in reserve for future payment.
- Named Peril Coverage: Insurance for losses explicitly defined in the policy contract.
- Owner occupied: Homeowner's insurance sold to owners occupying the described property.
- Policy Period: Time period during which insurance coverage is in effect.
- Premium: Money charged for the insurance coverage reflecting expectation of loss.
- Property: Coverage protecting the insured against loss or damage to real or personal property from a variety of perils, including but not limited to fire, lightening, business interruption, loss of rents, glass breakage, tornado, windstorm, hail, water damage, explosion, riot, civil commotion, rain, or damage from aircraft or vehicles.
- Replacement Cost: The cost of replacing property without a reduction for depreciation due to normal wear and tear.
- Tenants - Homeowner's insurance sold to tenants occupying the described property.
- Renters Insurance - Liability coverage for contents within a renter's residence. Coverage does not include the structure but does include any affixed items provided or changed by the renter.
- Accidental Death & Dismemberment: An insurance contract that pays a stated benefit in the event of death and/or dismemberment caused by accident or specified kinds of accidents.
- Annuity: a contract providing income for a specified period of time, or duration of life for a person or persons.
- Beneficiary: An individual who may become eligible to receive payment due to will, life insurance policy, retirement plan, annuity, trust, or other contract.
- Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU): A professional designation awarded by the American College to persons in the life insurance field who pass a series of exams in insurance, investment, taxation, employee benefit plans, estate planning, accounting, management, and economics.
- Credit Life Insurance: Policy assigning creditor as beneficiary for insurance on a debtor thereby remitting balance of payment to creditor upon death of debtor.
- Incontestability Provision: A life insurance and annuity provision limiting the time within which the insurer has the legal right to void the contract on grounds of material misrepresentation in the policy application.
- Life-Endowment: Insurance that pays the same benefit amount should the insured die during the term of the contract, or if the insured survives to the end of the specified coverage term or age.
- Life Settlements: A contract or agreement in which a policyholder agrees to sell or transfer ownership in all or part of a life insurance policy to a third party for compensation that is less than the expected death benefit of a policy.
- Limited Payment Life Insurance: A form of whole-life insurance with a pre-defined number of premiums to be paid.
- Living benefits rider: A rider attached to a life insurance policy providing long term care for the terminally ill.
- Mortgage Insurance: A form of life insurance coverage payable to a third party lender/mortgagee upon the death of the insured/mortgagor for loss of loan payments.
- Permanent Life Insurance: A policy that remains active for the life of the insured.
- Variable Life Insurance: Life insurance whose face value and/or duration varies depending upon the value of underlying securities.
- Variable Universal Life: Combines the flexible premium features of universal life with the component of variable life in which excess credited to the cash value of the account depends on investment results of separate accounts. The policyholder selects the accounts into which the premium payments are to be made.
- Whole Life Insurance: Llife insurance that may be kept in force for the duration of a person's life and pays a benefit upon the person's death. Premiums are made for same time period.
- Accident Only or AD&D: Policies providing coverage, singly or in combination, for death, dismemberment, disability, or hospital and medical care caused by or necessitated as a result of accident or specified kinds of accidents. Types of coverage include student accident, sports accident, travel accident, blanket accident, specific accident or accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D).
- Admission: Hospital inpatient care for any medical condition.
- Ambulatory Services: health services provided to members who are not confined to a health care institution. Ambulatory services are often referred to as "outpatient" services.
- Comprehensive/Major Medical: Policies that provide fully insured indemnity, HMO, PPO, or Fee for Service coverage for hospital, medical, and surgical expenses. Coverage excludes Short-Term Medical Insurance, the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program and non-comprehensive coverage such as basic hospital only, medical only, hospital confinement indemnity, surgical, outpatient indemnity, specified disease, intensive care, and organ and tissue transplant coverage.
- Disability Income: A policy designed to compensate insured individuals for a portion of the income they lose because of a disabling injury or illness.
- Disability Income-Long-Term: Policies that provide a weekly or monthly income benefit for more than five years for individual coverage and more than one year for group coverage for full or partial disability arising from accident and/or sickness.
- Disability Income-Short-Term: Policies that provide a weekly or monthly income benefit for up to five years for individual coverage and up to one year for group coverage for full or partial disability arising from accident and/or sickness.
- Lifetime Disability Benefit: A provision in some disability income policies to recoup lost wages for the term of disability or remainder of insured's life in case of permanent disability.
- Limited Benefit: Policies that provide coverage for vision, prescription drug, and/or any other single service plan or program. Also include short-term care policies that provide coverage for less than one year for medical and other services provided in a setting other than an acute care unit of the hospital.
- Long-Term Care: Policies that provide coverage for not less than one year for diagnostic, preventive, therapeutic, rehabilitative, maintenance, or personal care services provided in a setting other than an acute care unit of a hospital, including policies that provide benefits for cognitive impairment or loss of functional capacity. This includes policies providing only nursing home care, home health care, community based care, or any combination. The policy does not include coverage provided under comprehensive/major medical policies, Medicare Advantage, or for accelerated heath benefit-type products.
- Long-Term Disability Income Insurance: A policy providing monthly income payments for insureds who become disabled for an extensive length of time, typically two years or longer.
- Medicaid: Policies issued in association with the Federal/State entitlement program created by Title XIX of the Social Security Act of 1965 that pays for medical assistance for certain individuals and families with low incomes and resources.
- Medicare: A state assistance program, passed under Title XVIII of the Social Security Amendments of 1965, to provide hospital and medical expense insurance to those over 65 years of age.
- Rider: An amendment to a policy agreement.
- Short-term Disability: A company standard defining a period of time employees are eligible for short-term disability coverage, typically for 2 years or less.
- Specified Disease Coverage: Coverage that provides primarily pre-determined benefits for expenses of the care of cancer and/or other specified diseases.
- Workers' Compensation: Insurance that covers an employer's liability for injuries, disability or death to persons in their employment, without regard to fault, as prescribed by state or federal workers' compensation laws and other statutes.
Complete this worksheet.
With the information gathered from all of your insurance policies, complete the Insurance Policies Inventory. It will help you to keep track of all of your policies, at-a-glance.
Making sense of your cash flow and spending behavior is an important step in enhancing your financial well-being. Everyone needs to know where their money is going or which expenses are constraining their budget. Check on your spending behavior to assess your current standing and explore the possibility of cutting expenses.
Gather your bank and credit card statements.
Gather your bank and credit card statements from the past three months.
Complete these worksheets.
Saving for financial goals, unexpected emergencies, and retirement is an important part of ensuring your financial wellness. Check on your saving behavior to determine if you are setting aside enough money to reach your financial goals and weather the unexpected.
Get your savings information.
Make note of the balances on all savings accounts, gather information on savings instruments such as certificates of deposit (CDs), and review your saving behavior. As you review your saving behavior, ask yourself questions such as: am I depositing money into a savings account via direct deposit, do I change the amount that I save each month based on monthly expenses or spending sprees, or am I having difficulty establishing a set saving pattern? Answering these questions will help you to get a sense of what your saving habits are and whether you'd like to make some changes.
Review your savings options.
Review the savings options that best suit your financial needs and goals.
Everyone should have a savings account in order to meet short and medium-term needs.
- A savings account is a deposit account at a bank or other financial institution that generally pays a low interest rate. The guidelines for use of the account vary by account type and institution. Some savings accounts have limits regarding the number of transactions you can make, so if you are making frequent transactions, it is best to use a demand account (e.g. checking account) for those. Given the low rate of return on a savings account, this saving option is not ideal for achieving long-term goals. Be sure that the bank or financial institution’s savings accounts are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission or National Credit Union Administration.
For medium-term financial goals, consider putting some of your money in a Certificate of Deposit (CD).
- Certificates of Deposits are sold at most banks and credit unions. Like savings accounts, CDs are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission or National Credit Union Administration. However, unlike savings accounts, CDs have a specific, fixed term of deposit, meaning you can’t access the money for a certain period of time (e.g. three months, six months, one to five years). When you purchase a CD, the underlying assumption is that you will hold the money in the CD until it reaches its maturity. In order to encourage you to do so, financial institutions typically offer an interest rate on CDs that is higher than the one offered for accounts on which money can be withdrawn on demand. Even so, the interest earned on CDS is relatively low. However, rates typically increase with the length of the deposit.
- It's important to note that CDs typically call for a minimum deposit and carry a penalty for early withdrawal. With CDs, you can get back what you put in plus the interest you earned. Thus, they are low risk investments. The gains from CDs are taxable as income unless they are in a tax-deferred (IRA) or tax-free (ROTH IRA) account. Please note: The information provided here is for general purpose only. For detailed information and expert guidance, please talk with a professional tax advisor.
For retirement goals, consider long-term investment options. A great way to start this process is by reviewing your defined contribution or defined benefit plan(s) with your current and/or past employer(s). If you would like to grow your savings for retirement, consider increasing your contributions to your defined contribution plan and/or making contributions to other retirement savings vehicles available to you. Contact your employer’s benefits department to learn more about the retirement savings options available to you. The IRS website offers details on all types of retirement plans.
There are numerous options from which you can choose to save for your child’s postsecondary education. No matter which path you choose, the sooner that you start saving, the better.
- The Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA) is an investment account that carries tax advantages. These accounts can also be used to pay for qualified expenses for primary and secondary school. Be sure to review the IRS guidelines for these accounts.
- 529 plans are state or institution-sponsored savings plans designed to facilitate saving money now for the future costs of a college education. They also carry tax benefits.
Be sure to view the following sites for additional information:
Please note: The university has compiled these resources for employees interested in 529 college savings plans. The university does not sponsor or endorse any specific plan. Employees are free to choose the plan that best suits their family’s needs. In addition, only qualified tax professionals can give you advice on your specific tax situation. This information is for general purposes only.
Complete this worksheet.
It is helpful to think of savings in terms of when the money will be used. Some funds are needed for immediate use in the present, some need to be saved to pay for monthly or anticipated near-term expenses, and some should be saved for the future. The key to meeting your savings needs in the present and future is to set savings goals. Complete the Set Goals for $avings Worksheet to set your goals and start saving!