Do you have big plans for 2019?
It seems like this time of year there are about a million of these articles that flood the internet:
“Make next year your best yet!”
“How to set resolutions you can actually achieve!”
“Tackle all of your 2019 goals and crush the New Year!”
Unfortunately, a lot of these articles, blog posts, YouTube videos, and podcasts often fall short for a variety of reasons: they’re too specific, they set unrealistic expectations, they don’t give enough detail, or they offer solutions that just aren’t feasible when it comes time to incorporate them into your day-to-day.
So, I wanted to write something that stood out from the noise. I’m not a cynic. I believe in resolutions, and I really trust that 2019 can be your best financial year yet. But in order to achieve that, we need to talk about bite-sized, actionable steps that will help to get you there.
Step One: Don’t Fix What’s Not Broken
I know – this feels like a jump. There’s a lot of content out there screaming at you about how terrible all of your lifestyle choices are, and I’m here to tell you something: they’re not. A lot of people are doing all of the right things and are saddened to realize they’re not millionaires yet.
The truth is, exceptional finances often take time and patience. If you have an investing strategy that’s playing the long game, are budgeting successfully, saving regularly, increasing your income, and paying down your debt – you’re doing it right. Let me be the first to pat you on the back and tell you to keep up the good work next year.
Step Two: Know What You Own
I love this step because it’s so easy, and still so important. I’m always struck by how many people aren’t aware of what, exactly, they own – and why. This goes beyond just your traditional assets. It’s important to know what you physically own. But even more than that, it’s important to know what you own in your investment portfolio.
Too many people invest in a target date fund without knowing exactly how their assets are being allocated. Whether you have a 401(k), Individual Retirement Account, or other retirement savings vehicle, make sure you check in annually or semi-annually to see how your money is being invested and whether or not that’s in line with your retirement savings goals.
Step Three: Get to Giving
Charitable contributions are expected to decline after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed. Because the standard deduction has risen, many people won’t donate as much to charity in years to come because they’re less likely to itemize their tax deductions. As unfortunate as it may be, it’s the sad truth – a lot of people won’t give unless it directly benefits their finances.
That being said, if you’re still wanting to give and find a way to have it benefit you during tax filing season – it’s still possible. With tactics like charitable “lumping” you’re able to “give” regularly by setting up an automated payment to a savings or investment account earmarked for charitable giving. Then, when the amount in the account has hit a point where it could make itemizing your taxes a better financial option, you give the funds to charity all at once. Retirees might also look at giving some or all of their RMD to charity, and reap tax rewards through this strategy, as well.
Step Four: Test Drive Your Retirement Budget
If you’re five years or less from retirement, next year is a fantastic time to put your retirement budget to the test. There’s no way to if it’s going to work out in retirement unless you give it a try! Many pre-retirees set up a budget for their retirement that seems doable, but when push comes to shove, the budget needs some adjusting. Many times this is because retirees underestimate how much they’re going to spend during retirement.
Step Five: Automate What You Can
This is another simple step that’s a total knock-out: automate what you can when it comes to your finances. Everything from savings contributions to overpayments on your mortgage can be automated these days – so get it done! When we remove ourselves from the equation, we remove any chance of human error. This practice helps to keep you on track to meet your financial goals without having to take extensive action month after month.
Step Six: Focus On Your Health
What? Since when does health dramatically impact your finances? The truth is, the better you take care of yourself before retirement, the fewer medical expenses you’ll have in the long run. More than that, though, if you focus on your health now, there’s a higher chance you may be more content as you make the transition to retirement. You’ll be able to make empowered decisions about your lifestyle and your money in a way you never have before. So, how can you take better care of your health next year? You have so many options, and I’d encourage you to not just look at one aspect of the wellness spectrum:
- Start seeing a therapist or counselor weekly or monthly – even just as a check-in
- Get a low-cost gym membership and commit to attending a few times a week
- Pick up a new hobby that’s just for you, and that makes you happy
- Cut one “bad” thing from your diet
- Focus on living a more holistic lifestyle
- Commit to getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night
- Make the doctor’s appointments that you’ve been putting off
- Try stretching every night before you go to sleep
- Connect with family and friends regularly
Step Seven: Work With a Professional
Finally, you can help to make next year a financial knock-out by working with a professional. It’s a bit of a shameless plug,. Of course, every investing situation is completely unique, but the fact is that working with an advisor has countless benefits. An advisor can act as a sounding board during a financially turbulent time in your life, help you stay organized, assist in setting attainable goals, develop an investing and cash flow strategy, and so much more. Want to learn more? I’d love to hear from you in 2019!