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A One Hour End-of-Year Financial Checkup


Like a medical exam, a review of clients’ finances can identify strategies to improve their “financial fitness” and screen for potential problems, such as a high debt-to-income ratio. Below are 10 diagnostic tools to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a client’s financial situation that can be reviewed in a one-hour appointment:

  1. Online Financial Quizzes. Use Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s six online financial self-assessment quizzes for feedback on various aspects of personal finance.
  2. Financial Goals. Review annual progress benchmarks toward financial goals. For example, does someone have half of the savings toward a financial goal at the halfway point of their savings time frame? This worksheet can be used to set SMART financial goals with a dollar-cost and time deadline.
  3. Net Worth Statement. Review net worth (assets minus debts) to get a “snapshot” of an individual’s or family’s finances. Ideally, net worth should show a steady increase as the value of assets increases with regular savings and compound interest and debts decrease through steady repayment.
  4. Income and Expense Statement. Use this to analyze past spending patterns. There are four components that are totaled for a given month: income from all sources, fixed expenses (e.g., rent), variable expenses (e.g., food), and 1/12 the annual cost of irregular expenses (e.g., quarterly property taxes).
  5. Irregular Expense Check-Up. Have clients list all their expenses that come irregularly throughout the year. Examples include school tuition, gifts, insurance premiums, and vacations. Then total each expense and divide by 12. Advise clients to treat these expenses are monthly “bills” and set money aside for them.
  6. Financial Ratios. Create financial ratios by linking key pieces of information from net worth and cash flow statements. The liquidity ratio and debt-to-asset ratio are a great place to start.
  7. Credit Check-Up. Discuss strategies for lowering interest rates, progress toward debt repayment, a recent review of a client’s credit report for errors and evidence of identity theft, and a client’s progress toward raising their credit score.
  8. Tax Check-Up. Discuss clients’ marginal tax bracket, whether or not they are maximizing contributions to retirement savings plans, and other tax-reduction strategies such as deductions, credits, and long-term capital gains tax rates on assets held more than a year.
  9. Life Insurance Check-Up. Use a planning worksheet based on the income needs of dependents. These worksheets often assume that survivors need 75% of previous household income and include expenses such as mortgage repayment, funeral, and medical bills, and money for children’s college expenses.
  10. Retirement Check-Up. Help clients determine how much they need to save for a comfortable lifestyle in later life. A good tool to use is the free online FINRA Retirement Calculator.

For additional content related to working with clients on personal financial issues, visit the MFLN Personal Finance Team. Free CEUs are available for AFCs, CPFCs, and CFLEs through our webinars.

Written By:
Barbara O'Neill

Edited By:
Selena Garrison
Program Coordinator


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The Extension Foundation was formed in 2006 by Extension Directors and Administrators. Today, the Foundation partners with Cooperative Extension through liaison roles and a formal plan of work with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) to increase system capacity while providing programmatic services, and helping Extension programs scale and investigate new methods and models for implementing programs. The Foundation provides professional development to Cooperative Extension professionals and offers exclusive services to its members. In 2020 and 2021, the Extension Foundation has awarded 85% of its direct funding back to the Cooperative Extension System, 100% of funds are used to support Cooperative Extension initiatives. 

This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2020-41595-30123 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and membership funding. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the content are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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