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Have You Set Your New Year’s Resolutions Yet? It’s Not Too Late!

Have You Set Your New Year’s Resolutions Yet? It’s Not Too Late!

Saturday, January 9, 2016/Categories: Education, Website

Have you set your New Year’s resolutions yet? It’s not too late! At the start of 2016, it’s time to start making promises to yourself or family and friends about doing things better than last year—and that includes making better financial decisions. The way that you handle your money has a huge impact on your life and can have a lasting effect on your family's life as well. So whether you feel you're on fairly solid economic ground or you know you need to be more disciplined, here's a list of financial resolutions for 2016.

  1. Get your financial bearings. Start the new year by either creating or updating your personal "net worth" statement. Write down the value of everything you own—savings and investment accounts, car, home, business interests, and personal property. Then list all your debts—mortgage, car loan, credit card balances and student loans. Subtract what you owe from what you own to get your net worth. This gives you the big picture from which you can plan your next steps. It also provides a baseline so you can monitor your progress throughout the year.

  2. Develop and stick to a budget. Budgets are only as good as your ability to stick to them. So commit to taking a realistic look at how you spend your money. Itemize your monthly expenses (both essential and discretionary) and subtract them from your income. If you need to cut back, prioritize your spending. Make savings a part of your budget!

  3. Get organized. A simple, easily accessible filing system can make every other resolution easier to keep. First, set up either paper or electronic files for your financial and tax records, putting all your important documents (birth certificates, passports, Social Security cards, loan documents, insurance policies) in a secure place. Also put important financial dates on your calendar, like estimated taxes and property taxes. If you're retired or at least 70½, you'll also want to mark required minimum distributions.

  4. Set goals. Not hitting your financial goals? Maybe you need a fresh approach. First, make sure your goals are concrete and achievable. Are you saving for a down payment on a home? A kitchen remodel? A special vacation? Write down all your goals and put a price tag on each. Then prioritize and create a realistic timeline. You may have to crunch numbers and make trade-offs, but with specific and measurable goals in front of you, it will be easier to find ways to achieve them.

  5. Control debt. If you completed the first resolution, you know what you owe. Now decide how to handle it. Not all debt is bad (for instance, a mortgage), but paying late fees and interest on credit cards can easily undermine your financial plans. Ideally, no more than 28% of pre-tax income should go toward home debt; no more than 36% should go toward all debt (home, car, credit cards, etc.). Systematically pay down credit card balances by focusing on higher interest cards first. Charge only what you can pay off each month. And stay on top of student loans.

  6. Build an emergency fund. Strive to keep enough cash to cover three-to-six months' expenses in an easily accessible account in case of a job loss or illness. And don't touch the money unless you absolutely have to!

  7. Save for retirement. Pay yourself first by contributing to a 401(k) or other employer retirement plan—at least enough to capture a company match. Then keep adding to your 401(k) until you hit the max. You might also consider funding an IRA. Set a retirement goal and check your progress each year.

  8. Refine your asset allocation. Market ups and downs can throw your portfolio out of sync with your target mix of stocks, bonds, and other investment classes. Check to see if your portfolio still reflects your goals and feelings about risk, and buy and sell investments to bring it back in-line if necessary.

  9. Review insurance coverage. Make sure you have essentials like health, car and homeowners' or renters' insurance and that your coverage is appropriate for your needs. For example, you might consider purchasing an umbrella policy or disability insurance. Look into life insurance if you have dependents. Premiums can vary widely by company and by the terms you select, so do some comparison shopping.

  10. Create /review your estate plan. If you don't have an estate plan, make this the year for it. At the very least, set up a will and complete an advance healthcare directive. Review beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts and insurance policies—especially if you've had a life change such as a new baby, marriage or divorce.

Let our banking experts help you keep all of your New Year’s financial resolutions and accomplish those financial goals. Stop by one of our 12 central Ohio locations and let us help you ‘burn off’ some of those ‘extra pounds’ of debt! That is why Heartland Bank is ‘Where Banking Feels Good’!

Top 10 list provided by Schwab Community Services