As we begin the new year many of us will be thinking about our goals and working out what we want to achieve in the next 12 months. For most people these goals usually include eating healthier, getting more exercise and saving more money. As we all know the key to achieving any of these goals is to have a plan, so here are 10 key things to think about if one of your goals is related to your finances.
1) Assess Where You Are.
Setting financial goals is crucial, but before you can set any goals, you need to know where you currently are. Look through your savings, debts, and investments. Assessing your financial status may feel stressful, but gaining this knowledge will allow you to set realistic goals for the year.
2) Set a Budget and Stick to it.
One of the best things you can do for your finances is set a budget. The budget should be achievable. Make sure that your housing, food, and utility costs are around what you usually pay.
Budgeting is the most important thing you can do to help you be financially successful. There are a lot of people who make a lot of money but are broke, because they do not manage their money well. The key to doing this is to plan where you are going to spend your money and stick to it. Setting up a budget for the first time may be intimidating, but you shouldn’t let that stop you.
Goals for Your Budget:
- Set up a monthly budget and stick to it all year long
- Reduce your spending in specific categories each month
- Budget with your spouse each month
3) Stay Organized.
Setting budgets and goals are great, but these efforts are futile if you do not have a plan to stay on track. Staying organized is a critical step to meeting your financial goals this year. There are several tools and budgeting apps out there that can help you remain on track. When it comes to your personal budget, the more organized you are the better.
4) Establish an Emergency Fund.
Everyone is vulnerable to unforeseen emergencies. Without proper planning, your budget could fall apart should one arise. If you haven’t already done so, it’s important to establish an emergency fund. This will protect you if you experience any sort of unexpected emergency without breaking the bank.
Your fund should be at least 3 to 6 months’ worth of expenses. This fund may take a while to establish, but the personal financial freedom you gain from having it is worth the wait.
5) Start Saving Money.
Saving is another important key to financial success. You should be saving at least ten percent of your income each month. This money will add up quickly. You should consider saving this amount in addition to your retirement contributions if you can afford it. Sacrificing a few dinners out a month can pay off in the long run. By establishing a savings habit now, you are opening the doors for what you can do during your retirement years. If you are struggling to find ways to save you can start by cutting back on some of your expenses. Saving can be more effective if you have something you are saving for, as well.
Goals to Help You Save:
- Stop eating out
- Reduce your grocery bill each month
- Find ways to save on utilities
- Set a monthly savings goal
6) Learn About Money and Finances.
You should learn more about managing your money too. You can do this online, or by reading books and magazines. You can set a goal to read at least one in-depth source a month; a book or magazine will give much greater insight into a specific area of financial matters.
Goals to Help You Learn About Finances:
- Enroll in a personal finance class
- Read a book about personal finances
- Subscribe to personal finances newsletter
7) Begin Investing.
Investing allows you to grow your money at a much quicker rate. However, there are more risks involved in investing your money. Many people invest money successfully on their own, but if you are just starting out, you may consider finding a financial planner to help you achieve your goals. A good financial planner will ask you questions about your financial and life goals, and then give suggestions on how to achieve them. If you are leery of investing because of the current market conditions or because you do not understand how the markets work, take the time to talk to a financial planner. They will help you understand the risks and benefits of investing and should be able to help you find investments that match your current comfort level when it comes to risks.
Goals to Help You Start Investing:
- Find a financial planner
- Learn about the stock market
- Make goals to invest a certain amount each month
8) Optimize your portfolio.
We all share the goal of getting better investment results. But research shows timing of markets is difficult and can be counter-productive. So, create a plan that will help you stay disciplined in all kinds of markets. Follow your plan and adjust it as needed. Here are ideas to help you stay focused on your goals.
Focus first and foremost on your overall investment mix. After committing to a savings plan, how you invest is your next most important decision. Have a targeted asset allocation—that is, the overall mix of stocks, bonds and cash in your portfolio—that you’re comfortable with, even in a down market. Make sure it’s still in sync with your long-term goals, risk tolerance and time frame. The longer your time horizon, the more time you’ll have to benefit from up or down markets.
- Diversify across and within asset classes. Diversification reduces risks and is a critical factor in helping you reach your goals. Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are great ways to own a diversified basket of securities in just about any asset class.
9) Review your existing portfolio.
Monitor and re balance your portfolio as needed. Evaluate your portfolio’s performance at least twice a year using the right benchmarks. Remember, the long-term progress that you make toward your goals is more important than short-term portfolio performance. As you approach a savings goal, such as the beginning of a child’s education or retirement, begin to reduce investment risk, if appropriate, so you don’t have to sell more volatile investments, such as stocks, when you need them.
10) Check what you’re paying on your mortgage if you have one.
Interest rates have been very low for some time now, so review your mortgage to make sure that it’s competitive and that you’re paying as little as possible.
11) Review your life cover and protection policies.
It’s always worth keeping these policies under review, both to make sure that you have adequate cover and to make sure that you are still paying a competitive rate for the cover you have in place. The cost of protection can and does fluctuate and as with your mortgage, it will cost you nothing to ask us to review the arrangements you have in place.
If this sounds like a lot of work and you’re not sure where to start, why not let one of our advisers guide you through? Get in touch with us here for a complimentary new year’s financial review.