As each new year unfolds, it presents a timely opportunity to review your financial goals. Those resolutions you set in January won’t accomplish themselves on their own. Now may be a good time to put them into action.
A financial checklist can help you make progress on your financial goals this year and ensure that over the years, you’re driving in the direction of financial health. Here are a few items to include on your early-year financial checklist.
- Get a will. If you don’t already have a will, now is the time to get one set up. Estate documents are critical to ensuring your wishes are followed should you get in an accident or need a power of attorney. If you already have these documents in place, make sure they’re up to date.
- Wrangle that budget. Most of us have it: that nagging suspicion we’re paying too much on utility bills and other home services. Overpaying for such services can make it difficult to get ahead financially.
Sarah Pike, community outreach coordinator for High Speed Internet, recommends calling your Internet provider to get a better deal. If you don’t call, she says, “See if your ISP has an online chat function. It’s often faster to get through to customer service, and it’s another chance to lower your rate. Tweeting at the company also has its perks. Their social team will likely tweet back with an email contact you can reach out to.”
- Get a head start on your tax benefits. Instead of getting a hefty refund each year, adjust your withholdings to get more money in your pocket every month. In addition, make it a goal to increase your savings.
Matt Cosgriff, financial advisor at Life Wise Advisors, says “a good rule of thumb is try to save — at a minimum — 10% of your pretax salary. Then plan to increase that amount incrementally as you get raises or as debt payments drop off, until you reach 20% of your pretax income.”
Another great tip: Fund your IRA as quickly as possible. If you wait, weeks are likely to turn into months, and before you know it, the year is gone and you still don’t have your IRA funded. Use a year-end bonus to fund it or sock away your tax refund to get a head start.
- Save on health care. It’s possible to score big savings on medical care costs if you do some calculations upfront. You can “get a 20 to 30% discount on medical expenses, if your employer offers a health savings account,” advises Lidia Shong, head of marketing for About Life. “Make sure to sign up for it and contribute part of your paycheck to cover medical expenses. Even if you don’t think you’ll be going to the doctor that often, the money goes toward deductibles. So you may get a big discount by paying for medical and dental expenses with tax-free money from these accounts.”
- Attack debt. One of the best ways to get a handle on your hard-earned dollars involves paying off debt.
Identify things in your life you can do without, such as new clothes, eating out or cable TV. Whittle your expenditures down as much as possible, and put that money toward debt. Attack the debt for a set period of time, say, one year, and then revisit your progress. At this point, you can continue with debt payments or make adjustments. Either way, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll make progress when you double-down on debt reduction efforts.
Don’t let 2016 begin without a review of your household’s financial health. By creating or updating important documents, decreasing budget expenditures, paying down debt, saving on health care or securing maximum tax benefits, you’ll help drive your financial future. Get started today, and by next year, you’ll have accomplished a great deal.