Another year is coming to a close, which means now is a great time to look back at the financial resolutions and goals you set at the beginning of the year, check in with your progress, and start thinking about any goals you’d like to set come January 1.
Not sure where to begin? We’ve put together a few questions to help get your gears turning.
Have you reviewed your goals?
You’ll best be able to read the pulse of your financial wellness by evaluating your financial goals. Have you made progress toward them this year, or fallen a bit short? If you’re not as far along as you hoped, it may be due to extenuating circumstances (more about those coming up). If your situation has changed, simply revise your goals and incorporate them into your new plan for next year.
Next, consider new financial goals you’d like to set. For example, you may want to pay off any revolving debt, beef up your emergency fund, or increase or fully max out your 401(k) contributions — all smart moves. Make your goals clear and actionable, then break them into doable steps. You can do this!
Do you have a working budget?
Maybe this was the year you swore to build a budget and stick to it. If so, how did it go? If you didn’t get around to it — or if budgeting wasn’t one of your new year’s resolutions — it’s a really good idea to consider for next year. Whether you live paycheck to paycheck or earn more than you spend, budgeting can be an effective tool in helping to secure your financial health. On the other hand, not using a budget can lead to overspending and debt.
A budget is simply a spending plan for a specific time period. Though it might feel constrictive at first, having a plan can help you ensure you have enough money to cover your all expenses — after all, it’s hard to know what’s available to spend when you don’t know exactly how much you have and how much is earmarked for future expenses. Budgeting also helps you better prepare for unanticipated expenses that may crop up.
If this process sounds intimidating, a free budgeting app or website can make the process easier and almost turn it into a game. If you prefer paper, you can also download our Budgeting Income and Expense forms to help formulate your plan. You can find those in this handy budgeting blog.
Have you had changes in income?
Have changes in your personal situation taken place in the last year and impacted your income? Job changes can affect your bottom line, as can marriage, divorce, adding a baby to your family, moving, buying a house, or retirement. You may need to adapt your budget, savings, investments, spending, and even your tax filing accordingly.
Have you had unforeseen expenses?
When you set out to plan for the year, you probably didn’t know that your car was going to need lots of TLC, your air conditioning was going to give up the ghost, or your teen was going to need pricey orthodontia (is there any other kind?). Hopefully, there was enough in your emergency fund to cover any unwelcome surprises. But it’s probably time to realign your savings to replenish those reserves — or formulate a plan to pay off your emergency credit card. If you don’t have an emergency fund yet, no worries, you’ll just want to begin building one when you revamp your budget. We have some helpful articles about how to set up your short-term and long-term savings and how and why to set up an emergency savings fund.
Have you looked at your tax withholdings?
This is a good time to plan for next year’s taxes. If the number of people in your household has changed, you may need to adjust your tax filing accordingly. And finding other ways to reduce overall taxes is always a smart plan. If you don’t already itemize, add up all your allowable deductions and see if you would be able to do so. If so (or if you already itemize), review the list of allowable deductions and make sure you take advantage of any you’re eligible for. Having your plan formulated allows you to be prepared come tax time. But don’t take our word on this topic; the tax advisor of your choice is your best resource.
Have you given your investments a once-over?
The time is ripe to check in with your financial advisor regarding your investments. If you do your investing online (or otherwise handle your own), an end-of-year financial wellness check entails a more in-the-weeds review than simply scanning your statement.
Have you reviewed your retirement plans?
Lastly, take a long look at your retirement plans. Are you contributing the maximum to your 401(k) plan, or do you have a plan to get to the max (such as increasing your contribution with each raise or merit increase)? Be sure you’re contributing enough to take advantage of any employer match if they offer one — it’s free money! Also have your financial advisor review the investments you’ve selected in your 401(k) or retirement plan to ensure they align with your goals; there may be other investments within your plan that are better suited for you.
If your employer doesn’t have a 401(k), does it offer any other kind of plan? If not, consider setting up an individual retirement account (IRA) on your own.
Have you calculated what you need to save? Your benefits department or retirement plan administrator should have resources for you, and we have some great retirement calculators for you, too.
Start your year right
These are just a few of the things you’ll want to think about as you look ahead at the new year and start mapping out your financial goals and plans. It’s a fresh start to look forward to, and your friends at UBT are here to help, so don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our experts!
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