You have a resting heart rate of 65 beats per minute and a body mass index of 19. Are you in perfect health right? Not necessarily. Assessing your personal health requires a more holistic approach. No one number — or even two numbers, in this case — can accurately capture a picture of your overall health.
When it comes to your financial health, the same is true, which is why you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about your credit score. According to a recent survey by Bankrate, only 46% of U.S. consumers have reviewed their credit score within the last 12 months.
Your credit score is just one part of the picture. People with vastly different lives and financial situations can converge on the same credit score for different reasons. This isn’t to say that credit scores are without value, it’s just that their value is limited to certain situations, and a full picture of your financial health requires a deeper inspection.
For a basic checkup on your financial health, answer these questions:
Where are you now?
Take your vitals. Know your current assets. Understand your spending habits. And yes, know your credit score. Getting a grip on your current finances is the first step to financial health, and it lets you correct simple issues that can have a long-term effect.
Where are you going?
How long until retirement? Do you have a savings goal? Are you planning to start a business? Buy a small island? Disrupt the cupcake industry? Knowing where you want to go and what you want to achieve helps you assess whether your finances are on track to get you there.
How are you going to get there?
Knowing where you want to go is a start, but you also need a map that will get you there. Do you have a realistic plan to achieve your goals? If not, do you need to adjust your goals or draw up a new plan?
Have you put in some hedges?
No, not in your garden, although those are nice too. Have you hedged your bets? Plans change, markets rise and fall, life takes unexpected twists — are you set up to roll with the punches?
If you can easily answer these questions, then we have a prescription: keep doing what you’re doing.