Why December is the Worst Time to Assess This Year's Finances

Whether you work as an employee or an entrepreneur, you’re likely accustomed to the year-end performance review.

Can you recall how you felt leading up to last year’s? How about afterward?

Depending upon with whom you talk, the merit of this practice in the work place is questionable. The argument is this: How can you evaluate a year’s worth of work in a single meeting?

Good question.

Yet, we’re bumping up on that time of year (the fourth-quarter), which usually kicks off the season of year-end reviews. When managers meet with employees to give feedback on how well they’ve performed benchmarked to the goals that were set for and by them.

This is also a time when entrepreneurs do something similar to track their business’ progress and growth.

On the personal front, this is also the time of year when you may do a financial assessment that includes both a look-back and look-forward for the year to come.

In theory, this is perfect.

What is not so great is waiting until December to do this! Actually, this is the worst time when you consider all that happens during this month, like:

  • year-end deadlines
  • holiday activities
  • year-end fatigue

Oh, and then let’s not forget that if you wait until December, you don’t give yourself a chance to make tweaks that can help you finish the year financially stronger.

So, do this instead: Start your year-end financial performance review in October!

Notice I said, “start.”

This is because to do it properly, it cannot be done in a single sitting. It is also because there are many pieces to your financial life and each deserves an examination on their own, as well as in tandem with the your bigger financial picture.

So, what are the pieces?

Financially, there’s income; savings; spending; investing; insurance; credit/debt; and taxes.

On the non-financial front, it helps to revisit your goals and document your financial lessons and surprises.

Do you have a system for checking in with yourself on all these fronts?

Do you have questions that serve as your filter to help you make sense of the story the numbers are revealing?

The purpose of the performance review ought to be to make things better, not just to critique what went wrong.

This is true of your financial performance review, too. Or, at least it should be. And not only should it cover the areas mentioned above (what I like to refer to as a financial and emotional audit), but also include a review of key documents and key conversations with loved ones – especially your mate.

Did your money fulfill its “job” description.

I enjoy drawing parallels between how you handle money with how you handle other aspects of your life. If for no other reason than to dispel with the myth that there should be a difference.

The power of money is mysterious in this way. It’s why when clients get stuck, whether with regard to a particular money skill or scope of knowledge, I have them draw from what they do know and are good at to push through and get unstuck. But I digress…

Going back to my parallel…just like you have a job description – whether you work as an employee or run a business – your money has a job-to-be-done.

I recently talked about JTBD with regards to finishing your unfinished projects. Let’s now apply that to money and your self-directed financial performance review.

Goals

It all starts with your goals. More specifically, the financial component of said goals.

At the start of the year, did you write down your 2017 goals? Did you identify the financial component of it? Did you map out a game-plan for how you were going to move from where you were in January to where you need to be come December 31st?

Current status

Where are you now when you compare your forecast to your actual? How close are you to fulfilling your goal? What information and insight is being revealed when you compare your statement balances of January to your balances as of September? For both those that needed to go up as well as those that needed to go down, how wide is the gap?

The gap is everything. It is one of the key reasons for starting your review process now. Because if you can make tweaks to your game-plan, at least you have more runway in which to catch up than you would if you waited until December.

The role of others

What role are other people playing in money fulfilling its job description in your life. What role is your money playing in fulfilling the same in the lives of others.

Have you recently talked about expectations and what happens if the goal goes unaccomplished? What about if it is achieved?

We can debate the merits of doing a financial performance review only once a year (hint: I’m not a fan). But what is indisputable, in my opinion, is the need for it.

Most managers and employees dread the performance review cycle. Especially if it only focuses on feedback, and doesn’t include coaching on how/what to improve and what is appreciated.

Likewise, most people dread engaging with their money beyond its functional use.

And yet, the benefits of doing a year-end financial performance review are extremely beneficial.

It helps to keep you accountable to yourself and others.

It serves as a reality check. Perhaps you’ll discover you have further to go to closing the gap than you thought. However, you may also discover you’ve reached or exceeded a goal or benchmark for which you were aiming. But because you weren’t tracking and paying attention, you missed the clues along the way.

The numbers are objective. Your financial results to date are akin to the feedback you’d get from a boss or from your business. It provides unbiased instructions on how to adjust your behavior so you can get your sh*t together and finish the year as strong as possible.

And on the off-chance you’ve read this far and are saying to yourself, “yeah, yeah…but…” Let me ask a few questions: How crazy was your life and schedule last December? Did you even do a financial performance review then? Do you have any idea how you’re doing thus far this year?

If as we bump up against the start of October, you find yourself, like me, saying, “I can’t believe how fast the months are going by.” Or, you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, even if just slightly. I hate to be the bearer of such news, but it ain’t going to get any better -:(. You’re not going to have more time; you’re not going to have less to do. Sorry.

Instead, you’ll need to use the 90+ days we have until year-end differently.

So, I hope you read this as an invitation to get started on your year-end financial performance review sooner rather than later. Choose one piece of your financial life to get the ball rolling. Choose one day. Choose just one hour. Choose to get started now!

You can thank me later.

p.s. Finishing the year (financially) stronger will be the theme for October’s Comfort Circle™ dinner on October 23rd. To be notified when we are accepting RSVPs, click here.

Share This

Yes, we use cookies.

We use cookies to customize your experience, to improve the content we deliver to you, and sometimes to show you relevant advertising on social networking sites like Facebook or Instagram. Is that cool with you? (Of course, you can decline the tracking, and can continue to visit our website without any data sent to third party services.)