Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution and quickly realized you weren’t going to follow through? If so, you’re not alone. The stats tell us that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. (1) Good intentions are important, but if you don’t take the small steps to make your goals a reality, any change will be short-lived. Thankfully, there’s good news: it doesn’t have to be this way. If you have dreams of turning your finances around or setting a firm financial foundation, here are some actionable steps to jumpstart your financial plan in 2018!
1. Leave The Past In The Past
Don’t let your past mistakes keep you from moving forward. Did you make some bad investments or neglect to save? Start fresh from today and leave the past in the past. Take a look at your current financial situation, including income, savings, debt, and expenses, then come up with practical goals to make your dreams a reality.
2. Set Big Goals And Small Milestones
Don’t be afraid to dream big financially. What if you could save $100,000 in the next five years? Having a lofty goal in mind can inspire you to stay on track. To avoid getting frustrated along the way, celebrate small milestones, such as reaching $5,000, $10,000, $25,000, and so on. Reevaluate your goals frequently to ensure you’re on track and make adjustments as needed. Having a goal in front of you will give you perspective in your day-to-day decisions and help you prioritize your saving and spending.
3. Get Your House In Order
If you are excited about conquering your goals, one of the first steps you need to take is to eliminate debt. When you are paying 10-30% interest on any number of credit cards or loans, you are limiting the amount of money you have available to put towards your goals. Become relentless about reducing your debt and interest costs and consolidate accounts where you can. If you have a loan with a significantly higher interest rate than the others, you may want to work on paying off that one first. Or, if you're feeling overwhelmed by debt, try paying off the loan with the smallest balance first, no matter the interest rate, in order to gain some momentum.
An emergency fund can help you avoid accumulating more debt. By creating a liquid, easily accessible savings account, you won’t have to rely on debt to cover those inevitable life expenses, such as home repairs or medical bills. Create this cash cushion by putting aside money from each paycheck until you have enough to cover approximately three to six months worth of living expenses. You will never regret having an emergency fund at the ready.
4. Make Purposeful Investments
Anyone can close their eyes and pick a random mix of mutual funds to invest in, but having a customized retirement plan based on your circumstances, goals, and risk level is what will get you from point A to point B. Asset allocation is the most critical investment decision you can make. Sit down with a financial professional and create an investment philosophy that will give your portfolio a clear sense of purpose.
5. Review Your Insurance Coverage
Securing your financial future isn’t just about saving and investing, but also about managing your risks. Insurance helps you protect against risks that could ruin you financially. Your insurance needs will change based on your age, employment status, marital status, number of dependent children, etc. It is important to review your coverage each year to make sure you are fully covered and also to ensure you are not spending money on insurance that you don’t need. Double check your named beneficiaries as well to make sure they still reflect your preferences.
6. Consider Unexpected Risks To Your Financial Plan
No matter how hard you work to create a foolproof financial plan, there will always be risks and roadblocks that have the potential to get you off course. Inflation will decrease your purchasing power and rising healthcare costs can eat away at your nest egg. Unexpected early retirement could change the timeframe of your goals, tax changes could throw a wrench into your planning, and the loss of a spouse could impact your standard of living. Speak with your advisor to find ways to protect yourself against these risks.
7. Take Advantage Of A Financial Professional
Whatever your situation, whatever your goals, a financial professional can walk you through each of these steps to get your financial plan in shape. Have you created a financial plan? If not, what has stopped you from creating one? Let us help you jumpstart your financial plan in 2018 by contacting us at 616-396-0500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-obligation conversation.
Joel Johnson, AIF® is an Investment Advisor Representative with Cetera Investment Advisers LLC. At DeLong & Brower, P. C., a Holland, Michigan accounting, retirement consulting, insurance, and financial services firm, he specializes in providing comprehensive wealth management and retirement plan consulting for individuals, families, retirees, and business owners. Along with more than 15 years of industry experience, Joel is an Accredited Investment Fiduciary®, a Chartered Federal Employee Benefit Consultant, and a Certified Business Adviser/Consultant through Crown Business and Crown Financial Ministry. To learn more, visit www.cpaholland.com.