The new year is a time when a lot of people reflect on the past and look forward to the future. You might be one such individual and, perhaps, part of that reflection involves your money. Just how was your financial situation last year? What positive and negative developments impacted your money?
Maybe the first thing that comes to mind is your savings. A good place to start is your account balances. Did you meet your targeted savings goal? Are you saving enough for retirement or to meet an educational goal? The new year is a good time to assess your emergency reserve. Depending on your individual situation, have at least three to six months’ worth of expenses saved and easily accessible.
Speaking of savings — it is time to review this year’s retirement plan contributions. Contribution limits can change each year, so be sure to check for the newest figures. Are you able to save enough to maximize any employer matching contributions?
Along with reviewing your account balances, you might want to see how your investments performed. Review your account statements. Did your investments meet your expectations? Are your investments meeting your needs? It makes sense to review the results against industry benchmarks and the market in general. You will want to consider your own circumstances. Are there adjustments you should make based on these?
Another component of many people’s finances is debt. As year-end statements come in, make a summary of the balances and terms of your debt. Did you pay down the balances? Are you in an endless cycle of paying down debt only to borrow more money? Make a plan to pay off your debt and track your progress in the upcoming year. Seek competent help if you need it.
You have worked diligently all year and your year-end paystub will reflect this. Included on your paystub is how much you have paid into the Social Security system. You keep putting money into the system every year you work, but have you ever checked to see what you would receive if you collected benefits? You can find this information on your Social Security statement, which can be viewed by going online at the Social Security Administration website, socialsecurity.gov. There you will be able to sign up for a mySocialSecurity account.
The new year is also a good time to review your insurance coverages. Some areas include health, auto, home, renters, long and short-term disability, and long-term care. An umbrella policy is vital to protecting your assets against unforeseen liabilities. Shop these coverages out to make certain you are getting the maximum you can out of your insurance dollars. A review of your life insurance needs is also important to make certain your family is protected should the unthinkable happen.
Review your spending for the next year. Are there changes that will be happening that will affect you? Prepare a budget to help keep your finances in check.
If you have not already done so, get your free credit report. Each of the three major credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, are obligated to provide you a free credit report once every twelve months. Check the reports for errors and get these resolved.
The final step is to examine your whole financial picture. Did your finances improve? Add up the worth of what you own minus what you owe. This is called your net worth. Use this key number to keep track of your progress — it should increase over time. What can you do in this new year to improve? It is time to address your greatest concerns, enlist some help, and assess your goals and spending. Make the new year ahead a great financial one.