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Your Complete Year-End Financial Checklist

Finance

Can you believe 2018 is almost over?! At the end of each year, it’s a good idea to take a look back at your finances. If you set goals at the beginning of the year, have you met them? Are you in a stable place financially? Or are there areas where you could improve? Take a look through this checklist to get a complete snapshot of your finances before the calendar flips.


Debt

One of the first areas of your finances you should look at is your debt. How much progress did you make with your debt this year? Or did you add to it rather than subtract from it? If you haven’t yet, go through and record how much you owe and to where (credit cards, student loans, etc.). Keep the list somewhere safe. At this time next year, you can compare where you are. If you didn’t make as much progress as you would have liked this year, why not? Do you have a debt repayment plan? Should you make adjustments to it? Checking in on your debt can help position you for a stronger repayment approach in the new year.

Retirement Savings

Checking in on your retirement at the end of the year is also wise. Most online platforms allow you to check your plans growth. Use this to look back at where you were at the beginning of the year. How has your money grown? Are you contributing as much as you can? Are you getting the maximum match from your company? Where do you want to be by the end of next year? Because retirement savings plans use compound interest, the more you save earlier on, the better off you’ll be down the line.

Emergency Savings

Another critical area to check in on is your emergency savings. Having 3-12 months of necessary living expenses saved up is ideal. This way, should the unexpected happen, you’ll be financially prepared. If you don’t have 3-12 months worth of expenses saved up, what adjustments do you need to make to start saving more? If you aren’t prioritizing contributing to your emergency savings, you may need to make changes elsewhere in your budget. Life happens, and getting caught without emergency savings can be incredibly detrimental.

Budget

How did your budget hold up this year? Did you even keep a monthly budget? If you haven’t been keeping a budget, now’s the time to start. If you have been, review whether it’s still working for you. Many people look at keeping a budget as a daunting task, mostly because it involves math. However, the math is simple addition and subtraction – what’s coming in versus what’s going out. And you don’t need a fancy software program or smartphone app to keep a budget. All you need is a pen and paper.

Your Estate

Thinking about estate planning can be difficult. Additionally, many people believe they are too young, or that estate planning is only for the wealthy. Neither of these is true. Estate planning is important because it ensures that your assets will be distributed the way you would like and to whom you would like. If you haven’t created a will, you may want to consider it. If you do have a will, the end of the year is an excellent time to review it to ensure it is still accurate and suited to your wishes.

Future Financial Goals

The last thing you should check off your list for the year is your list of future financial goals. If you came into this year with goals, check on your progress. Did you achieve any of your goals? Have you made as much progress as you’d hoped? After gauging how you’ve done on preexisting goals, think about what new goals you may want to set. Perhaps you’re looking to pay off your student loans, buy a house or go on a nice vacation. Once you’ve established a goal (or several), plan out the steps you’ll take to achieve it. Smaller, actionable objectives – such as paying off your highest interest credit card first – will help keep you motivated and allow you to build to those bigger goals. Writing your goals down can also be helpful. Putting pen to paper helps solidify your desire to accomplish it and can help hold you accountable.

The end of the year is a time when many of us reflect on the past 12 months. You can channel that sense of reflection to look back on your finances as well. What did you accomplish financially this year? What could you improve upon in the year ahead? Examining each facet of your financial situation as the year comes to a close will give you a complete snapshot of your money. You will also be better suited to make goals for the coming year. End this year – and start the next – feeling confident in your finances.

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What I Learned About Marriage as a Survivor of Abuse

Marriage can be a tightrope act: when everything is in balance, it is bliss and you feel safe, but once things get shaky, you are unsure about next steps. Add outside forces into the equation like kids, work, finances or a personal crisis and now there's a strong chance that you'll need extra support to keep you from falling.


My husband and I are no strangers to misunderstandings, which are expected in any relationship, but after 7 years of marriage, we were really being tested on how strong our bond was and it had nothing to do with the "7-year itch"--it was when I was diagnosed with PTSD. As a survivor of child sexual abuse who is a perfectionist, I felt guilty about not being the "perfect partner" in our relationship; frustrated that I might be triggered while being intimate; and worried about being seen as broken or weak because of panic attacks. My defense mechanism is to not need anyone, yet my biggest fear is often abandonment.

I am not a trained therapist or relationship expert, but since 2016, I have learned a lot about managing survivorship and PTSD triggers while being in a heterosexual marriage, so I am now sharing some of my practical relationship advice to the partners of survivors to support my fellow female survivors who may be struggling to have a stronger voice in their relationship. Partners of survivors have needs too during this process, but before those needs can be met, they need to understand how to support their survivor partner, and it isn't always an easy path to navigate.

To my fellow survivor sisters in romantic relationships, I write these tips from the perspective of giving advice to your partner, so schedule some quality time to talk with your boo and read these tips together.

I challenge you both to discuss if my advice resonates with you or not! Ultimately, it will help both of you develop an open line of communication about needs, boundaries, triggers and loving one another long-term.

1. To Be or Not to Be Sexy: Your survivor partner probably wants to feel sexy, but is ambivalent about sex. She was a sexual object to someone else and that can wreak havoc on her self-esteem and intimate relationships. She may want you to find her sexy and yet not want to actually be intimate with you. Talk to her about her needs in the bedroom, what will make her feel safe, what will make her feel sexy but not objectified, and remind her that you are attracted to her for a multitude or reasons--not just because of her physical appearance.

2. Safe Words = Safer Sex: Believe it or not, your partner's mind is probably wondering while you are intimate (yep, she isn't just thinking about how amazing you are, ha!). Negative thoughts can flash through her mind depending on her body position, things you say, how she feels, etc. Have a word that you agree on that she can say if she needs a break. It could be as simple as "pause," but it needs to be respected and not questioned so that she knows when it is used, you won't assume that you can sweet talk her into continuing. This doesn't have to be a bedroom only rule. Daytime physical touch or actions could warrant the safe word, as well.

3. Let Her Reconnect: Both partners need attention in a relationship, but sometimes a survivor is distracted. Maybe she was triggered that day, feels sad or her defense mechanisms are up because you did something to upset her and you didn't even know it (and she doesn't know how to explain what happened). If she is distant, ask her if she needs some time alone. Maybe she does, maybe she doesn't, but acknowledging that you can sense some internal conflict will go a long way. Sometimes giving her the space to reconnect with herself before expecting her to be able to focus on you/your needs is just what she needs to be reminded that she is safe and loved in this relationship.

4. Take the 5 Love Languages(r) Test: If you haven't read this book yet or taken the test, please at the very least take the free quiz to learn your individual love language. My top love language was Touch and Words of Affirmation before remembering my abuse and thereafter it became Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation. Knowing how your survivor partner prefers to be shown love goes a long way and it will in turn help your needs be met, as they might be different.

5. Be Patient: I know it might be frustrating at times and you can't possibly totally understand what your survivor partner is going through, but patience goes a long way. If your survivor partner is going through the early stages of PTSD, she feels like a lot of her emotional well-being is out of her control. Panic attacks are scary and there are triggers everywhere in society. For example, studies have shown that sexual references are made anywhere from 8 to 10 times during one hour of prime time television (source: Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media). My husband is now on high alert when we watch TV and film. He quickly paused a Game of Thrones episode when we started season 2 because he realized a potentially violent sexual scene was coming up, and ultimately we turned it off and never watched the series again. He didn't make a big deal about it and I was relieved.

6. Courage to Heal, Together: The Courage to Heal book has been around for many years and it supported me well during the onset of my first flashbacks of my abuse. At the back of the book is a partners section for couples to read together. I highly recommend it so that you can try to understand from a psychological, physical and emotional stand point what your survivor partner is grappling with and how the two of you can support one another on the path of healing and enjoying life together.