When it comes to New Year's Resolutions that include financial goals, writing them down and being visible is essential to your success. After you’ve written down what your financial resolutions for the New Year are, tell others about your progress and failures. Here are some things you may want to focus on this year:
Decrease your spending
The less you spend, the more you can save into an emergency fund, pay toward debt reduction, or save for retirement. Review your spending this month to determine what you can eliminate and reduce. If you felt financially insecure the past year or on the brink of it, now take control of your financial future.
Reduce your debt
If you are one of the ‘revolver households’ that carries credit card debt month after month, make this the year you pay off your debt, cut up the cards, and close credit card accounts.
You may want to consider paying down your mortgage, refinancing, or moving to a home that costs less. If you become unemployed in the future, making your mortgage payment is essential to remaining sheltered. If you’ve maintained employment but have a higher interest rate than today’s rates, consider refinancing or making extra payments toward your mortgage.
Pay off your auto loan, increase your monthly payment, or refinance the remaining term at a lower rate. Although refinancing may look appealing, confirm that the refinance saves you money and reduces your loan term.
Start your debt reduction investigation by using financial calculators or consult your financial professional to determine if these ideas are appropriate for you.
Establish an emergency fund
Start with a minimum of one month’s expenses and work toward a fully-funded emergency fund. A fully-funded emergency fund should have six months or more of expenses in savings that you won't access and that's not tied to stock market performance like a money market account.
Save for retirement
Set your retirement savings contributions up automatically increase year over year and make an effort to maximize your contributions. Additionally:
Get your employer’s retirement savings contribution match
Contribute enough to your employer’s retirement plan to receive matching dollars. If you’re not saving enough to receive a matching contribution from your employer (commonly a 2-4% match), you’re throwing away ‘free money.’
Take some risk (in your investments)
If you have your retirement savings in an interest-bearing account outside of the stock market, you will not keep up with inflation in retirement over time. Having 100% of your retirement savings tied to stocks may not be best for you, but all of it outside the market may not be either. Meet with your financial professional to determine if your risk tolerance and portfolio allocations are appropriate to your situation.
Be aware of how taxes impact you
Part of your investments should be in tax-sheltered accounts and some after-tax investments. Discuss how each investment may affect you this year and in retirement with your financial and tax professionals. Part of tax awareness is understanding how trading and rebalancing impact your taxes and how your financial professional can help.
Monitor your investments
Meet with your financial professional for a financial review at least once this year to determine if your risk tolerance, investment options, and your timeline for retirement are still on target. Receiving financial help from a professional can help you accomplish your financial resolutions.