Improving one’s financial status is among the top ten New Year’s resolutions made by millions of people. Unfortunately, according to forbes.com, less than 25% of people follow through on their resolutions after 30 days, and only 8% accomplish them. When it comes to making a commitment to improve your financial situation, it’s one thing to make a general statement such as, “I am going to get my money straight.” It is a totally different thing to have a plan and identify specific actions and tasks to work towards. In other words, set goals instead of making resolutions. I’ve identified 11 financial goals and tasks you should set for the new year to achieve financial wellness well into the future.
- Build an emergency fund. Having an emergency fund ensures that you are prepared for those unexpected events such as a car or home repair, job loss or loss in income, or medical mishap. Instead of going into debt to handle these emergencies, tap into your emergency savings. Your emergency fund gives you peace of mind and turns a crisis into an inconvenience.
- Decrease your debt. Eliminating debt will free up money that you can use toward other financial goals.
- Spend less money. Identify your needs and wants. Focus on your needs and evaluate your wants. When it comes to wants, identify your true motive for desiring more “things” and ask yourself if it’s really all that important. Track your expenses for 30 days, documenting everything you purchase– from a pack of gum to a refrigerator. Review the list and note where you can cut back.
- Increase your retirement savings to at least 15%–more if you’re 50 plus years old. No matter your age, one day you are going to have to stop working. How will you support yourself? Increase your contributions to your employer sponsored retirement savings (401K, 457B, 403b) and/or open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).
- Start investing. Keeping money in a traditional savings account (other than your emergency fund) earning 1% or less is actually losing money considering the inflation rate of 2.24%. The average gain on investments such as a stock mutual funds account is 8% to 10%. Consult a certified financial planner for investment options.
- Increase your income. Get a side hustle. Sell stuff you don’t need. Use the extra money to pay down debt.
- Pay more than the minimum amount due on your student loans and your mortgage. Applying money to the principle of these loans will save you lots of interest and get them paid off sooner.
- Create a budget or spending plan. The best tool you can use to monitor spending and gauge progress towards your financial goals is a budget. Without a budget, you’ll have no idea how much you’re spending or how much you could be saving. Getting into debt is easy without a budget. Use a free budgeting application to easily track spending and budgeting.
- Buy life insurance and get a will. Don’t leave your loved ones burdened trying to figure out how to take care of your end-of-life expenses. You’ll want enough insurance to take care of anyone who depends on you for financial support. Make sure your will is updated so there is no misunderstanding of how to distribute your assets.
- Start a college savings plan for your children. You do not want your kid’s financial future held hostage to endless student loan debt. Consider a 529 investment or pre-paid plan.
- Get your 3 free credit reports at annualcreditreport.com. Review the reports for errors and areas that need improvement. Dispute all errors that may be negatively affecting your credit score.
In addition to these 11 actions, make a serious effort to educate yourself in personal finance matters. Many financial mishaps can be attributed to the fact that we just don’t know any better. I’ve created a valuable 30-page resource, The Express Guide to Personal Finance, to get you started learning the basics. Download your free copy from my website, MoneyManagementWisdom.net. I believe that when we know better, we do better.