Keep your financial health in check with this 10-step checklist

With the current year nearing its end and a new one just around the corner, the holiday season is a perfect time to perform a financial health checkup. After all, a financial wellness checkup can help us recognize any of our money-related habits that might need improvement — and help us plan for the adjustments needed to improve our financial health (and minimize any money-related stressors) moving forward.

Whether you’re an experienced investor with advanced financial skills or just an everyday American looking to take more control of your finances, consider taking the 10 steps in this financial health checkup checklist to set yourself up for more money-related success in the coming year:

  1. Set your goals … and celebrate your wins — A good way to kick off your financial health checkup is to look back at your previous year’s financial goals and evaluate how much progress you made toward reaching them. And whether your goals include paying off all your debts, saving for retirement, putting funds toward a future home purchase or contributing to a college savings fund, be sure to celebrate the milestones you achieve along the way. And remember — each one is getting you closer to realizing your financial dreams. Next, put some time and thought into identifying and prioritizing your top financial goals for the upcoming year. Creating a list of your goals will help you stay focused on them and motivated to achieve them, as well as help you gauge your progress throughout the year as you take steps to improve your financial well-being.
  2. Consider your cash flow — To manage your money wisely, it’s critical that you have a strong understanding of your income and your expenses. Look into the amount of money you have coming in and going out each month and answer the big-picture question — are you living within your financial means? If you hold accounts at Arthur State Bank, you can use our
  3. Scrutinize your spending — Regularly reviewing your bills and other spending can help you identify any unnecessary or excessive expenditures that you can either eliminate or cut back on to save money. Such a review can also give you the opportunity to evaluate the pricing on some of your subscriptions, insurance policies, recurring services, etc., then shop around to see if you can find better deals. And by doing either of these, you can give yourself extra funds for saving, investing or otherwise making strides toward achieving your financial goals.
  4. Analyze your investments — If you have an investment portfolio, give it a careful review to ensure that your current investments such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities and CDs are still in line with your financial goals and risk tolerance. If adjustments need to be made, this may be a good time to consider making moves that align your asset allocation with your short- and long-term financial goals. And keep in mind that having a diversified financial portfolio can help you keep your overall risks in check and safeguard your financial well-being.
  5. Step up your savings — Whether setting money aside to pay for college, to support a comfortable retirement, to build an emergency fund or something else, the sooner you can start saving, the better. And of course, the more funds you can devote to your savings, the faster you can build them up. One rule of thumb recommended by many financial experts is the 50-30-20 rule, which can serve as a helpful guideline on how much of your income to spend vs. how much to set aside. But however you choose to approach your savings and investments, try to build and maintain a habit of setting money aside regularly, as this is among the best ways to boost your financial health.
  6. Put a dent in your debts — One of the most important steps to achieving financial well-being is to pay down (and eventually eliminate) your debts — especially any high-interest debts such as the ones many consumers carry on credit cards. Make a plan to eliminate your high-interest debts and to reduce the overall debt load you’re carrying. In addition to improving your financial health, paying down debts can help you reduce financial stress and free up funds for saving and investing.
  7. Build a budget — Having a personal or household budget in place is one of the most effective ways to ensure that you’re managing your money in a responsible way — and it can serve as a road map that helps you control your spending and reach your financial goals. If you don’t already have one built, take the steps needed to create a budget, and do your best to stick to it. Then, as your financial situation evolves and changes, review/adjust your budget as needed to improve your financial wellness.
  8. Examine your insurance — You never know when unexpected setbacks may strike, and having adequate insurance in place can help protect your financial fortunes when they do. Take the opportunity to review your insurance policies to ensure that you’re sufficiently covered against the biggest risks you may face in life. And whether you carry homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, auto insurance, health insurance, life insurance, or a mix of these and more, explore any opportunities you may have to bundle your insurance policies to achieve savings on your premiums.
  9. Assess your estate plan — A financial health checkup presents a great opportunity to review important legal documents such as your will, trusts, guardianship designations, healthcare directives, beneficiary designations and other legal records to ensure that they accurately reflect your current situation and intentions. And if you don’t have any such needed records in place, this is also a great time to establish them so that they’re on hand to protect your loved ones and your financial assets should the direction they provide ever be needed.
  10. Get expert insights when needed — For many of us, financial expertise simply isn’t a part of our skill set — especially when it comes to complicated financial topics. If dealing with any aspects of your personal finances becomes overwhelming, consider getting the help of a financial advisor who specializes in helping people manage their money wisely and achieve their financial goals. These professionals are trained to assist people with putting a plan in place for overcoming their financial challenges and reaching their financial goals — and often, a little expert guidance can go a long way toward achieving financial well-being.


Proudly serving South Carolina since 1933, Arthur State Bank offers accounts and services to meet a variety of financial needs. To help you achieve all your financial goals, the bank offers in-person service as well as a range of convenient digital solutions. To learn how Arthur State Bank can help you with banking needs ranging from checking and savings to retirement accounts, mortgages, other personal loans and more, visit

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Man doing his banking online is the only source for free credit reports authorized by the federal government. Every 12 months, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each agency.

Your credit report has your credit history for all of your credit accounts as well as any credit inquiries and public record court information such as collections. In addition, the report provides personally identifiable information such as your name, address, and employment.

Be sure to carefully review all three reports to identify any problem areas that you may need to clean up prior to applying for a mortgage. If there is any incorrect information, follow the reporting agency’s rules to correct it or add a notation to the report to explain the situation.

Your FICO Score is a score combines data from several areas include payment history, the amount owed, length of credit history, new accounts. Many lenders use this score as a guide. This score is not provided as part of the free annual credit report.

Learn more about how your credit score impacts your ability to secure a loan.


Couple looking over finances

Primary considerations for setting your housing budget require an assessment of your income, debt and current savings for the down payment on the home. The following are generally recommended guidelines; however, you should meet with an Arthur State Bank lender to get personalized mortgage information.


Couple meeting with lender

The pre-qualification/pre-approval letter is included with any offer you make on a house to inform the seller that you have met with a mortgage lender and you are prepared to make an offer. The letter states that based on certain assumptions, the bank is prepared to lend you up to a specified amount of money for a home mortgage.

When choosing a loan officer, we recommend going local to work with someone who understands your community’s real estate market. This blog on first-time home purchases includes questions to ask your lender that may be helpful when preparing for your meeting.

Helpful Resources:


Realtor shaking hands with a client

When a house is sold, the seller typically pays real estate commission to both the listing agent and the selling agent. It is extremely beneficial for the buyer to use their own real estate agent. Loan officers can often recommend selling agents in the area; ask your officer about realtor referrals when discussing your loan.

A good realtor will know the local market and can help you find an ideal home based on your budget, location and desired features. During your search, understand that you will most likely need to compromise on some items, so it’s important to identify your critical needs versus your wants.


Couple searching online for a home

Additionally, when you start with the house search and work backwards, homes can often go off the market while you’re completing steps 1-4. While browsing homes immediately can be tempting, we recommend following these steps in order so that, once you find your dream home, you’ll be well-positioned to take action immediately.

When you find the home you want and you think you are ready to put an offer on it, you will want to make sure you have all the information you need to make a solid offer.

  • Evaluate the neighborhood.
  • Drive by the house at different times of the day.
  • Examine how other houses in the neighborhood are maintained.
  • Consider any potential traffic or other disruptive noise.
  • Is there ample parking for you and visitors?
  • Read the details in any Homeowner Association agreements (HOA fees and rules).

Make sure to do a preliminary check of house details:

  • Check the water:
  • Does it have good pressure?
  • How long does it take to get the water hot?
  • Is it well water or city water?
  • Turn light switches on and off.
  • Open and close doors and windows to make sure they work properly.
  • Review previous utility bill expenses.
  • Consider the property tax bill.


Family meeting with realtor at new house

When writing an offer contract, be sure to pay attention to all of the details.

Offer Price:

Your agent should do a market analysis that pulls data on recently sold comparable houses. The best comparisons will come from the same neighborhood.

If you are asking for the seller to pay some of the closing costs, remember that this cost plus the sales commission determines the net amount you are offering the seller for the house.

Work with your agent on your negotiation strategy. There are many things to consider, such as how badly you want this particular house, whether it is a buyer’s or seller’s market and an assessment of the seller’s motivation to get the property sold.

There isn’t one best strategy.

Be sure to document in writing everything you want included with the house, such as appliances, etc. Your agent should guide you through the contract step-by-step.


  • Home inspection.
  • Mortgage.
  • Final walk through (24 hours prior to closing).

Proposed closing date. Typically, this is 30-45 days from an accepted offer.

A good-faith deposit is required for the offer. This is typically between 1-10% of the purchase price of the house. The deposit is kept in escrow until closing and the money is applied to the purchase price of the house at closing. If the house does not close due to one of the contingency clauses, the buyer receives their money back. However, if the buyer decides not to close on the property, the seller may get the deposit money.

Attach your pre-approval letter to the offer.


Two people in professional meeting

The clock starts ticking for everything documented in the contract, including mortgage application, inspections and closing date.


Woman advising other woman on mortgage application

You will need to decide which mortgage to select prior to the application.

Plan for the following potential fees:

  • Application fee (many banks and mortgage companies charge an application fee; however, there is not an application fee at Arthur State Bank).
  • Credit check.
  • Appraisal (may be paid at closing).
  • Loan origination fee (paid at closing).

Once you have approval for your loan, make sure you don’t change anything that will impact the status of your mortgage. Banks do a final check on credit and jobs just prior to closing, so now is not the time to change jobs or make another purchase on credit such as a car or furniture.


Home inspector going over findings with home owner

Depending on the size of the house, an inspection can cost on average between $300 to $1000.

Many real estate contracts specify how problems uncovered in the inspection will be resolved, up to a certain dollar amount. Should necessary repairs exceed that amount, the buyer has the option to cancel the contract without penalty and receive their deposit money back. Another option is for the buyer and seller to renegotiate who will pay for additional repairs.


Woman happily holding keys to her new home
  • Homeowner’s insurance is required by the lender prior to closing on the loan.
  • Turn on utilities in your name, effective the closing date.
  • Change your address with the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Make moving arrangements.

Three days prior to closing:

  • You should receive your final Closing Disclosure from the closing agency. The final Closing Disclosure shows a column for the seller and a column for the buyer. All closing charges and credits for both the seller and the buyer are documented in the closing statement.
  • Review the closing statement for accuracy prior to coming to closing.
  • The final amount in the buyer’s column shows you the amount of money you need to pay at closing.

The closing office will provide specific payment instructions. Closing funds have become recent targets for cybercriminals. If you are asked to use a wire transfer, call the office and ask to speak to someone you have been working with to double-check the instructions.

Closing day:

In South Carolina, the closing will usually take place at the attorney’s office. Everyone signing for the mortgage must be present to sign the closing paperwork. Make sure you bring the following:

  • Cashier’s check or proof of payment for wire transfer.
  • Driver’s license.
  • Checkbook, just in case there are any additional items that were not on the closing statement.

Be sure to understand this information:

  • How and when you will pay:
  • Your mortgage.
  • Your property taxes.
  • Your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Any HOA dues.
  • Who to call with any questions.

The best practice is to go through the homebuyer’s roadmap in this sequence. However, if you jumped ahead early in your journey, just circle back to address the steps you missed.

Arthur State Bank’s loan officers are closely tapped into local real estate markets and experts at helping clients get what they need on terms that work for them. We also offer mortgage specials for first-time homebuyers.

To start planning your journey to your dream home, try out our mortgage calculator. If you’re ready to talk to a loan officer, contact Arthur State Bank to request personalized mortgage information today. Don’t forget to ask about our first-time homebuyer offer.