As 2014 comes to a close, it's time to start thinking about how to make 2015 a success for you and your loved ones. Though there's little consensus about their origins, we know that Americans have been making New Year's resolutions since at least the 1770s.[i] In 2013, 54% of Americans made resolutions about their finances.[ii]
Here are 15 financial resolutions to help make 2015 healthy, happy, and successful:
1. Set aside emergency savings
Emergencies are unpredictable, and a serious illness or sudden financial need can derail your finances. Prepare for unpredictable expenses by putting aside six to eight months of expenses in an easily accessible cash-equivalent account.
2. Make a budget and stick to it
Budgets may sound like a lot of unnecessary work, especially if you're financially comfortable, but it's quite easy to let your spending go off the rails if you're not tracking it in some way. Give us a call if you'd like some tips on making budgeting hassle-free.
3. Spend less and save more for the future
Most Americans could stand to put more money away for the future. We recommend keeping separate "buckets" of savings for short, medium, and long term goals and leveraging tax-advantaged accounts where possible. Let us know if you'd like help saving for specific goals so that we can help ensure you have the right strategy for your needs and timeline.
4. Make retirement plan contributions regularly
We believe that "time in the market" is critical to long-term investing success. Instead of waiting until the last minute to make your annual contributions, give your money more time to grow by making automatic contributions to your accounts every month.
5. Maximize your retirement plan contributions
Tax-managed retirement accounts are one of the most powerful tools in your financial arsenal. Make the most of them by contributing as much as you can each tax year. We usually recommend maxing out employer-sponsored plans first in order to take advantage of any matching contributions your employer may offer. Give us a call if you need help understanding your retirement account options.
6. Pay down debt, especially high-interest credit card debt
High-interest debt can make it very hard to get ahead financially. If you're carrying significant debt, make it a priority to pay down the debt and get out from underneath high interest payments.
7. Set goals for the future and work with a professional to create strategies to help you work towards them
In our experience, people who set goals for themselves and create strategies to pursue them are much more likely to see success. One study found that investors who leveraged specific financial strategies saw greater long-term financial success.[iii] Sit down with your loved ones to discuss your financial goals; when you're ready to discuss your thoughts, call our office to schedule a no-obligation consultation.
8. Create a legacy that makes a difference in the world
We believe that a rich life is about more than financial success and a comfortable lifestyle. Whether you want to leave something to your loved ones, or contribute to causes close to your heart, take time to think about the legacy you will leave for the future.
9. Review your estate planning and legal documents
Your core legal documents should be reviewed regularly to make sure that they keep up with your life. If it's been a few years since you took a look at your documents, dust them off and make sure that they still represent your wishes.
10. Review the beneficiaries of your financial accounts and insurance policies
Most Americans have a significant number of financial accounts that they have accumulated over the course of their life. Take the time to gather up your account documents and make sure that the beneficiary information is still current; remember, beneficiary provisions are independent of your will or other estate provisions.
11. Take care of your health
Healthcare is a major expense for many Americans, especially when serious illness strikes. Take steps to protect your health (and your wallet) by living a healthy lifestyle and being proactive about preventative care.
12. Protect your credit
Identity theft and financial fraud are serious threats that can compromise your financial wellbeing. Protect yourself by reviewing financial statements and bills carefully for unauthorized activity. Check your credit report for free at www.annualcreditreport.com
13. Review your tax strategies for potential savings
Recent changes to tax laws mean that you may be paying too much in taxes this year. Give us a call to discuss tax strategies that may help you reduce your tax burden.
14. Involve your spouse and loved ones in your finances
If you (or your spouse) don't get involved in the family finances, it's time to start. Work together to make financial decisions and make sure that each of you understands the overall game plan for your finances. At minimum, make sure that your loved ones know the location of financial accounts and understand your wishes.
15. Keep your resolutions!
One study found that just 8% of New Year's resolutions are actually kept.[iv] Improve the chances that you will keep your resolutions by making your goals simple, concrete, and actionable. Instead of saying: "I will save more for the future in 2015," say: "I will contribute $4,500 to my retirement accounts by December 31, 2015" or "I will pay off $2,000 of credit card debt by April 15."
As 2014 draws to a close, we would like to extend our thanks for the trust and confidence you've placed in our firm. You've made this year one to remember and we are sincerely grateful for the privilege and opportunity to serve. We look forward to serving you and yours for many years to come.
If you have questions about your future or would like some support in keeping your financial resolutions, please give us a call. Together, let's make 2015 a success.