Congratulations! You’re leaving your firm and embarking on a short paid vacation before starting a new role. During this gardening-leave period, you’re not permitted to work for your new company, and technically anything you produce still belongs to the firm you’re leaving. That means this is a perfect time to travel, read, and tackle the personal projects that you never have time to handle. Take this opportunity to make sure your finances are in order. Ideally your new job will mean you won’t have time to do this again for a while.
Here are some ways to get the most out of your gardening leave when it comes to financial organization.
Check that your will and the beneficiary designations on all your accounts are up-to-date, especially if you’ve had them for some time. Make sure you have a centralized list of all your accounts and benefits along with contact information. If someone had to call those institutions on your behalf, would they know how to reach the right person? It’s useful to keep a hard-copy “doomsday file” in a safe place for emergencies.
– Fee Review
What are your financial institutions charging you to manage your money? Now is the time to look at the fees that you are paying for mutual funds, hedge funds, asset management, and credit cards, and banking. Don’t think you’re paying a fee? Consider what amount of money you have to keep with an institution to get “fee-free” services. Could that money be better invested elsewhere?
A new service called FeeX scans your retirement accounts, shows you exactly what you’re paying, and suggests similar products that cost less. Over time, money not spent on fees can compound into an important component of your portfolio.
Take a look at your charitable giving as a percentage of your income and consider whether it’s at the level you want. Also think about how you’re structuring your donations. Depending on your pace of giving, you may want to evaluate setting up a family foundation or a donor-advised fund, like Fidelity Charitable. This may allow you to maximize the tax benefits of your gifts.
Now is also a good time to think about your charitable involvement. Ask yourself whether you want to join a nonprofit board, or continue with one you’re already on. If you’re anticipating a lack of time with your new job, this may be the time to step back from volunteering or find a less time-intensive way to help.
Review how you are allocating your assets among stocks, bonds, cash, real estate, and other investments. Look also at retirement and educational savings. Talk to your financial advisor about areas where you should rebalance.
Few investors think hard about their cash. This is money on the sidelines that could be working harder for you. Take a look at the yield your cash is earning in the bank. If you prefer to keep this portion of your portfolio liquid, consider online savings accounts, which pay as much as 10 times the national average in interest.
A MaxMyInterest membership can help you earn dramatically more: our members now earn about 90 basis points – 0.90% – more on their cash than the average of 0.09%. For a member with $1 million in the Max system, that comes to an additional $9000 or so each year in extra interest. Gardening leave is the perfect time to make sure you’re not leaving money on the table before you start your new job.