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Week in Perspective & 2021 Is Halfway Over: How to Conduct a Mid-Year Financial Checkup

July 06, 2021

Summer is finally in full swing, meaning we’re already about halfway through 2021. After a year like no other, we’re all excited to enjoy the warm weather with friends and family. If you have some time over the coming weeks, take a moment to slow down and check up on your financial wellbeing.

Here are six things you can do right away to make sure your goals are being met and your finances are in good shape before heading into the second half of 2021.

Review Your Budget

It’s possible your budget for this year looks a little different than it did in 2020. Many of us spent less on things like travel, vacations, eating out, entertainment and the holidays. If you didn’t revisit your spending budget for 2021, pause now and take a moment to identify areas where you may be spending more (or less) than last year.

Spending aside, it’s possible your income stream may have changed as well - whether you received a promotion, started a new career path or experienced a COVID-related job loss. If you’re still following the same budget as last year but your income has changed, reevaluate your budget immediately.

Check Your Credit Score

Checking your credit score isn’t exciting, but it is an effective indicator of your financial wellbeing. This is especially important if you plan on doing anything major in the second half of 2021, such as buying a car, purchasing a home, moving into an apartment, opening a new credit card or taking out a personal loan. All of these scenarios, and others, require a credit check. Being proactive in checking your credit score now can give you time to identify potential problems (such as a missed payment) and work to resolve them.

Review Your Retirement Contributions

If you save for retirement through an employer-sponsored fund such as a 401(k) or 403(b), take some time to check up on your account. This is true for everyone, even those who have opted to have funds automatically deferred. This year, the 401(k) contribution limit is $19,500 for those under 50 and $26,000 for those 50 and older.1 If you’re approaching retirement, you now have the opportunity to save even more in your account in order to get the most out of your employer-sponsored plan. Checking in on your yearly contributions now gives you plenty of time to catch up or contribute more before the year ends.

Assess Your Tax Liability 

Double-check your tax withholdings, making sure that you have the proper amount withheld or determining if adjustments need to be made. Adjustments may be necessary if you’ve experienced certain life events, such as marriage or divorce. Making sure your tax withholdings are reflective of your current situation for 2021 can help you avoid surprises come tax season.

Plan For Your Advanced Child Tax Credit

New this year, eligible families will begin receiving advanced child tax credits in the second half of 2021. From July to December, families will receive six installments of the credit via direct deposit or mailed check. Starting now, you’ll want to determine what should be done with the money. Creating a plan ahead of time can reduce the urge to spend impulsively once the credit hits your account.

Re-Evaluate Your Goals

After over a year of living through a pandemic, you are sure to have gone through some unexpected changes in your life. Now that the pandemic is coming to an end, there are even more changes likely to come. Now is an opportune time to revisit the goals you made at the start of 2021 and make sure they are still well-aligned with your current standings. If not, take a step back to look at your entire financial situation and future needs, and create new goals that better reflect them.

Take some time to prepare for the second half of the year. As life returns to normal, reevaluate your financial standings. Determine whether you’re on track to meet your goals, or if you may be in need of assistance from a trusted financial professional.

Last week was an impressive week for the S&P 500, which gained 1.7%, extended its streak to seven straight record closes, and topped the 4300 level with ease. The Nasdaq Composite outdid the benchmark index with a 1.9% gain and its own set of record-setting performances. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 1.0% and closed at its first record high since May, while the Russell 2000 fell 1.2% amid rebalancing factors. 

Eight of the 11 S&P 500 sectors contributed to the advance, led by information technology (+3.2%), consumer discretionary (+2.1%), and communication services (+1.9%). The energy (-1.1%), financials (-0.1%), and utilities (-0.02%) sectors closed lower. 

Interestingly, the Russell 1000 Growth Index rose 2.4% while the Russell 1000 Value Index (comprised of many cyclical stocks) increased just 0.4% despite a host of positive developments: 

  • June nonfarm payrolls increased by 850,000 ( consensus of 680,000)
  • The June ISM Manufacturing Index checked in at 60.6% ( consensus 61.0%) for its 13th straight month above 50.0% (expansionary activity)
  • The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index for June was better-than-expected at 127.3 ( consensus 120.0)
  • Weekly initial claims declined to a post-pandemic low of 364,000 ( consensus 400,000)
  • Many banks increased their dividend payments after easily passing the Fed's stress test in the prior week

The employment report, however, wasn't as strong as the headline jobs figure initially suggested. The unemployment rate (5.9%), average hourly earnings (+0.3%), and the average workweek (34.7) missed expectations. In addition, the labor force participation rate (61.6%) was unchanged, and there were higher rates of unemployment for minority groups.

What's more, there were reported growth concerns linked to the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant and the restrictions several countries imposed to curb infections. On a related note, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) said its COVID-19 vaccine showed persistent activity against the Delta variant with long-lasting durability of response.

These growth concerns were manifested in the 11-basis-point decline in the 10-yr yield (1.43%), which acted as a tailwind for the growth stocks -- especially the mega-caps. The Vanguard Mega Cap Growth ETF (MGK) rose 2.6% this week. Facebook (FB) reached a $1 trillion market capitalization, and NVIDIA (NVDA) reached a $500 billion market capitalization. 

Separately, WTI crude futures topped $75 per barrel amid speculation that OPEC+ will agree to a smaller-than-expected increase in supply, starting in August. An agreement was supposed to be reached on Thursday, but the week ended without an agreement.