A Fresh Start
2022 is here and it’s a great time to recommit to your financial goals: Update your spending plan, pay down debt, and invest more. They are New Year’s resolutions you should stick to.
Whatever your goals, the new year offers a fresh start to hit the reset button on your financial picture, reduce financial stress and refocus on your goals, both your short-term financial goals and long-term financial goals.
If you want new ideas on what to target and some good habits to form, this is the article for you. Here are our financial planning tips for starting your New Year off right.
Budget – Pay Yourself First
Budgeting is a big part of financial planning. A good spending plan will set your expectations for the months and years ahead, and allow you to create a plan for every dollar that enters and exits your life. Ask any financially-responsible person you know: They will be the first to tell you that budgeting is a very good idea.
Budgets are not supposed to be restrictive. Yes, they require discipline to stay on track and they prevent you from spending money however you want, but that is not the intention. Budgets were invented because people wanted a way to make sure they were going to meet their long-term goals, the things they value and want to prioritize above all else.
Paying yourself first means you are in the habit of taking a set percentage from each paycheck and putting it aside in savings or an investment account, regardless of your other expenses.
- Financially Responsible = Spending what’s left after saving.
- Financially Irresponsible = Saving what’s left after spending.
There’s no reason to worry if your budget doesn’t work out 100% as planned. It’s a process and should be tweaked to fit your life. Remember, the goal is to use your money intentionally, not to perfectly complete the budget every month.
How to get started with your budget? Check out Google the 50/30/20 Rule.
Spend Less Money Than You Earn
No, this is not a joke, and you’d be surprised by how few people actually follow this basic advice. Spending less money than you earn goes hand-in-hand with budgeting – you need to know how much money you have coming in and going out every month.
Review your accounts frequently. Look over your credit card statements before you pay them. Understand your spending habits. Save something every month and start (and complete!) an emergency fund.
Review Your Eating Out
How much do you spend eating out? What would that meal cost if you were to make it at home?
Eating out less is a simple way to knock hundreds of dollars off your monthly expenses. Remember, you don’t need to cancel all the fun in your life. Just beware of what each one of these meals adds up to and consider packing lunch with you a few times per week.
Do You Need All Those Subscriptions?
I can’t count how many times I’ve signed up for a free 30-day trial and then forgot to cancel it before I was billed. With the ballooning number of subscription services now available, many Americans have no idea how many they’re actually signed up for. Spend less money by reviewing your credit card bill at the end of every month and canceling any services you no longer use.
Write or Update Your Will
Nobody likes to talk about their ultimate demise. But, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “…in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes”
You need to have a will, regardless of your number of assets. You may not need to hire an expensive attorney, just look up templates online or use an online tool that will cost around $100. It’s not as difficult as you might think and it doesn’t take long at all. If you already have a will (good job!), read it over to see if anything needs to be updated.
Compound interest is an incredible thing. The earlier you can get it started working in your favor, the better. Even if you can only set aside a small amount to invest, do it. It’s a great habit to build and will set you up for success later on.
Your employer probably offers a 401(k) plan (or 403(b) or TSP) with matching benefits, typically equating to between 3-6% of your gross pay. You should view this as part of your compensation – it’s basically free money. Plus, you get to take advantage of one of the major tax-advantaged accounts available to you.
If you’re not already contributing (or even if you are), ask your HR department about how to maximize the matching benefits your company offers. They will be happy to help you.
If you have children and see higher education in their future, look into opening a 529 college savings account. Again, these are tax-advantaged vehicles the IRS has created to help you prepare for expenses related to college.
Also, consider HSAs (for medical expenses) and IRAs (for retirement) which are both highly tax-efficient accounts for saving for the future. As a general rule of thumb, any account that the IRS places contribution limits on you should consider using to its fullest.
Need assistance with financial planning? Schedule a no-obligation conversation with Ascendant Financial to see how we can help.
Review Your Insurance
Home insurance, car insurance, life insurance, health insurance, dental insurance. Take time at the beginning of 2022 to review all of these policies and assure they’re up-to-date for all your needs.
Insurance is something you’d rather not think about; you want to just set it and forget it. But, when you need to use it, it’s imperative to have the right coverage for you. Reviewing your insurance once per year is a great habit to get into and will greatly increase the confidence you have in your comprehensive financial health, as well as help you avoid catastrophe.
How a Financial Advisor Can Help
If you’ve considered hiring a financial advisor, go ahead and interview a few. There’s no harm in sitting down with several advisors and seeing what services they offer. If you find their value proposition is worth their fee, hire them.
If not, going through this process will have at least helped to clarify your personal goals and narrow down what you’re looking for in an advisor.
Schedule an appointment with one of our financial advisors and allow us to demonstrate what we can do for you. A cup of coffee and a second opinion, that’s what we offer – no strings attached.
This list of tasks is not particularly easy. Each one will require careful consideration and prudence. But, if done correctly, following these tips will put you well on your way(Hyperlink to Financial Planning…” blog towards a healthy financial situation and set you up for everything you have planned for the years to come.
Happy New Year!