While we hope this year was you best year ever, we know sometimes things don’t always go as planned. If your financial plan didn’t work out the way you wanted it to, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, ask yourself the following questions to determine what you can learn from reflecting on your financial situation in the last year.
Did you meet your financial goals and expectations?Perhaps you started the year with some financial goals in mind. You wanted to establish a budget that you could stick to, or maybe you hoped to build up your emergency savings fund throughout the year. If you fell short of accomplishing these or other goals, think about the reasons why. Were your goals specific? Did you develop a realistic timeframe for when they would be achieved? If not, learn to set attainable and measurable goals for your finances in the new year.
How did your investments perform? A year-end review of your overall portfolio can help you determine whether your asset allocation is balanced and in line with your time horizon and goals. If one type of investment performed well during the year, it could represent a greater percentage of your portfolio than you initially wanted. As a result, you might consider selling some of it and using that money to buy other types of investments to rebalance your portfolio. Keep in mind that selling investments could result in a tax liability. And remember, asset allocation does not guarantee a profit or protect against loss; it is a method to help manage investment risk. All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there is no guarantee that any investment strategy will be successful.
Are your retirement savings on track? Did you contribute the amount you wanted the past year? Or did unexpected financial emergencies force you to borrow or withdraw money from your retirement savings? In that case, you can help your savings recover by contributing the most you can to your employer-sponsored retirement plan and taking advantage of employer matching (if it’s available to you). Contributing to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan can help you save more consistently because your contributions are automatically deducted from your salary, helping you avoid the temptation to skip a month now and then.
What financial resolutions should I consider making as I look ahead to next year?
A new year is right around the corner, bringing with it a fresh start for you and your finances. What will you do this year to help improve your financial situation?
Evaluate your savings goals. The beginning of the year is a great time to examine your overall financial plan. Maybe you want to buy a new vehicle this year or save money toward a Caribbean cruise next year. Perhaps you want to focus less on material items and more on long-term goals, such as your retirement savings. Regardless of what you are setting money aside for, make sure you come up with a realistic savings plan that will help you achieve your goals and avoid the risk of significant loss.
Pay down debt. Whether you owe money on your credit cards or have student loan payments to make, the start of a new year is a good time to develop a strategy to reduce your overall level of debt. Reducing your debt can help create opportunities to contribute toward other goals throughout the year. But unless you can definitely afford it, don’t plan to pay off all your debts in one fell swoop. Set a smaller goal that you’ll be more likely to achieve over the course of the year.
Automate as much as you can. Your plan to pay down debt can be accomplished more easily if you automate your bill paying, saving, and investing. Most banks, credit card issuers, retirement plan providers, and investment
companies offer services that make payments automatic — allowing you to worry less about payment dates. The best part is that it might only take a few taps on your smartphone to make these processes automatic.
Think about organizing your financial documents. If your overall financial situation is already in good shape for the new year, consider taking time now to clear out and organize your financial records. Do you have important documents, such as your tax returns or passport, in a safe place? Are you holding on to records that you no longer need? Organizing your financial records now can save you time and frustration later if you need to locate a particular document.
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2017