There’s something about gardening that’s good for your soul. Getting your hands in the dirt, enjoying the sunshine, planting the seeds, watering. Then you wait for those seeds to grow, and you fertilize, weed, and transplant as needed. Finally, after lots of patience, you get to reap the benefits.
Financial investments are very much like growing a garden to ensure a bountiful harvest. Here are some ideas:
Plan and plant
Before taking action, you need to consider the size of your garden, pinpoint your future needs, and determine what crops will meet them. With finances you need to start off with a solid financial plan that gives you the ability to maximize your savings for retirement.
Periodic managing and rebalancing your portfolio is critical to keeping your finances growing strong. For example, as you age you may want to move a portion of certain high-risk accounts into lower-risk investments. There are many factors that play a role in deciding what to weed out or transplant, including your risk tolerance and number of years until retirement.
Some financial documents should be shredded and others should be kept in case you’re audited. Tax records should be kept for seven years, pay stubs and bank statements for one year, and credit card statements for 45 days (of course you can get a lot of these online today). To protect yourself from identity theft, shred all documents that include account numbers, birth dates, passwords or PINs, signatures, and Social Security numbers.
Keep yourself in check
A gardener needs to be aware of balance and not overdoing it. If you end up exhausted and unable to invest in your garden, it will suffer from neglect. In the same way, you need to get your debt under control to keep your financial health stable. It may be tempting to pay more for a child’s college education or help out a loved one who’s struggling financially, but you need to think about your own financial health first and foremost.
Picturing your garden’s late-summer blooms can motivate you to get out there and get your hands dirty now. When it comes to finances, thinking about the future can motivate you to save, too. Getting in touch with your future self will help you save more for your future.
Prepare to harvest
In addition to you, whom else will your garden feed? Make sure that you’ve updated all of your beneficiary forms. If something happens to you, you want to make sure that your hard-earned assets go where you want them to go. This is especially critical if you’ve recently married or divorced.
Decide when to pick
Make sure that you don’t pick your vegetables before they’re ripe. More and more people today are forced to delay their retirement; make sure that you’re not one of them by knowing your options. And you want to be sure that you have enough fruits and vegetables to sufficiently support you. You may choose to get advice from a “master gardener”-in this case a financial professional-to make sure that your plants don’t wilt, that your harvest pays off adequately for you, and that it lasts as long as you need it.
Whether your garden is vast or small, has vegetables, flowers, or consists of a couple of pots on the deck, now is a good time to make sure that it’s growing its best for you.
Skip Johnson is with Guardian Retirement Solutions. This article first appeared in our May 2013 issue.