It's July, Funny Money fans, and you know what that means!
No, not, "Put away the Christmas decorations" -- we're not that far behind on chores at the Funny Money household. Still, my boy, Funny Money Jr., or as I call him, "Li'l Money" ('cuz that's all he leaves us), finds that the creche makes a great soccer goal.
Instead, we'll check your investments, budget and taxes, which, I know, sounds even less exciting than washing your change.
Time to rebalance
Let's start with your stocks, where the S&P 500 is up by about 6 percent for the year. Now is the time to sell some winners and buy some bargains by rebalancing your portfolio.
Say you want a large-cap value fund to be 20 percent of your holdings, but it's gained on the year and now accounts for 24 percent. Selling shares to get back to 20 percent forces you to take some profits. If the fund lost value and dropped to 17 percent of your holdings, adding shares to get back to 20 means you're bargain-hunting.
Rebalancing every six months, or even quarterly, means you're buying low and selling high - automatically - and it can boost returns by as much as 1 percent.
Watch out for debt
Now, your budget. We have entered the "trifecta of debt" season: summer vacations, back-to-school purchases and holiday spending. Putting those expenses on plastic adds up quickly, and before you can pay one off, you get hit by another.
It's too late to save for the summer trip, but you can budget for the return to school and the holidays. Check last year's bank and credit statements, add up everything from Junior's backpack to Missy's light-up Christmas sweater, and decide how to save or what to cut. That way you don't put your holiday on the Visa, whether it's Christmas, Hanukkah or the Druid New Year, which is Nov. 1, although you'd think it would be Arbor Day.
How to pay for it all? Check your tax withholding. If you always get a refund, Uncle Sam has your cash all year instead of you. Grab last year's return and your last pay stub, and search for the withholding calculator at http://www.IRS.gov. See what you'll owe in taxes, adjust your withholding and use the savings to mark the Wiccan Winter Solstice in style.
If you see that you'll owe tax, you have time to adjust and avoid a big tax bill or, worse, a penalty for underwithholding from the IRS. Just don't tell them about washing your change - they could charge you with money laundering.
(Brian J. O'Connor is an award-winning columnist for The Detroit News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)