Resolve to Strengthen Your Finances in the New Year and Beyond
Money plays a critical role in our lives, but sometimes we need to be reminded to be intentional about our financial decision-making and our strategic plans for the future. If you’ve found yourself taking a more hands-off approach recently, the New Year offers a perfect opportunity to reflect and make any necessary changes so that you can strengthen your financial foundation for the next twelve months and beyond. If you’re unsure where to start, use the financial checklist below as a helpful guide.
#1: Get the full picture of your financial landscape.
You’ll need a clear view of your overall finances before you can move forward strategically. This is often an anxiety-producing step, especially if you haven’t looked closely at your finances in some time. Start by gathering all documents that relate to any bank accounts you have, loans you’ve taken out, debts you owe, and anything else related to your financial landscape. From here, you can list your assets and liabilities, which will be foundational as you move forward with more steps in your financial checklist.
#2: Be specific with your goals and vision for the future.
Once you have a clear understanding of where you are, you can envision where you want to go. Set goals in stages, dividing them into short-term, intermediate, and long-term. Getting specific with both the details of your goals and your desired timelines will help you create a more actionable plan. For example, instead of setting a goal to pay off your debts, resolve to pay off your student loan within three years. Instead of setting a goal to increase the balance in your emergency fund, aim to reach six months’ worth of expenses in the fund by a set date. Being detailed with your goals will help provide you with the framework you need when building out your budget as well as hold you accountable as you move forward.
#3. Build a budget and commit to it.
If step one was about figuring out where you’re starting and step two was about determining where you want to go, this step is all about building out a roadmap to get you to your destination. No matter how financially secure you feel, living on a budget is essential if you want to be sure that you’re heading in the right direction to achieve your financial goals. If you’re struggling to figure out where to begin or you’re worried about staying on budget, there are many helpful apps and online resources to guide you through each step of the process.
Use your detailed goals as a frame of reference to determine how much money you should be saving or putting towards debts or savings each week, month, or year and include these line items in your budget. Remember that your budget should be realistic and doable – otherwise, you won’t stick to it.
#4. Strategize for the upcoming tax season.
The New Year also means that there’s a new tax season right around the corner. So, while you’re deep into financial planning and goal setting, it’s smart to prepare for the filing deadline. Consider which documents you’ll need to compile and get a head start so you won’t be scrambling later. You may even want to sit down with a tax professional to see about any tax benefits you may be eligible for, so you won’t be surprised by any tax liabilities, such as capital gains taxes.
If you’re expecting a tax refund, begin to think about how it can fit into your budget to help bring you closer to your financial goals. Too often, tax refunds are spent on unnecessary purchases when they could be strategic tools if used intentionally. Having a plan in place on how you’ll use these dollars can help eliminate any temptation that might arise once you finally receive that check.
#5. Assess your retirement and investment accounts.
Many people fail to think often enough about their retirement and investment accounts. However, it’s important to revisit them on a regular basis to ensure that no changes need to be made. If you don’t have a retirement savings account in place, now is the time to create one – the sooner you begin saving for retirement, the more time you’ll have to save the necessary amount to support yourself in your golden years. Work toward putting at least 10 – 15% of your income into your employer’s 401(k) plan or into your personal IRA, maxing out your annual contributions if you’re able. Review your portfolio allocations to ensure you’re diversified and that they reflect your risk tolerance and retirement timeline.
#6. Evaluate your insurance needs.
If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that you can never be sure of what the future will bring. A smart way to prepare for the unexpected is through insurance, so if you have a family with people dependent on your income, you may want to consider purchasing life insurance and/or disability insurance to ensure they’ll be protected should something unexpected happen. It’s also smart to evaluate whether your health insurance policy meets your needs and shop around for options if you find it lacking.
#7. Consider refinancing your mortgage.
The longer it takes to pay off your mortgage, the more money you’re throwing away towards interest. Refinancing can be a smart way to achieve either a lower interest rate, a shorter payoff timeline, or both. Even if refinancing isn’t an option for you, there are other ways you can save some money when it comes to your mortgage. For instance, many lenders provide a reduced interest rate if you set up auto-pay. Or you could split up your monthly mortgage payment into bi-weekly payments, which might not seem like it would make a difference, but this payment strategy actually ends up meaning that you pay one additional mortgage payment each year.
#8. Don’t neglect to plan your estate.
Thinking about our mortality is always a bit uncomfortable, but taking time now to put a will and account beneficiaries in place and to get your estate in order ensures that those you leave behind are taken care of and that your wishes will be followed. If you have children or other dependents, planning will also provide them with peace of mind for the future.
Do You Need Assistance with Your Financial Checklist?
You work hard for your paycheck; you deserve to live a life that’s free of financial stress and anxiety. While it’s totally possible to tackle your finances and build a financial plan on your own, working with a financial planner increases your chance of doing so successfully. This is especially the case when it comes to the more complex parts of financial planning such as investment management, tax strategy, and retirement planning.
At Resolute, our goal is to construct a wealth management plan for our clients that provides them with confidence for the future. Please contact us today if you’d like to speak with one of our financial advisors about tackling your financial checklist and creating a financial plan that will set you up for success in the new year and beyond.