Staying on track with New Year’s resolutions is always a daunting task. One reason people tend to have trouble sticking with it is because they expect too much too soon. For example, if the goal is to lose weight, results are commonly desired within the first ten days, not ten months. We have become conditioned to expect instant gratification.
A lack of structure and patience can affect financial planning goals as well. As with any sizeable goal, it is easier to tackle the tasks in smaller and measureable pieces. With this in mind, Wisdom Wealth Strategies has created a planning calendar to help you achieve financial goals in 2015.
January – Review your spending plan
Budgeting can be a painful exercise that many people try to avoid. It can be difficult to face the numbers, but the best way to have a financially successful year begins with a spending plan. A valuable first step is to analyze spending behavior from last year and then create guidelines for spending categories for the upcoming year. If you do not utilize an online money management tool, but would like to learn more about the options available, click here for more information.
February- Get organized for tax time
By this time, you have received most of the tax forms and important documents necessary for filing your taxes. Keep all of these documents organized and readily available. When you have collected all of the necessary documents, schedule an appointment with your tax professional or set aside time to complete your taxes with a reputable software program.
March- Save for college and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the upcoming school year
If you have children, speak with your advisor about college savings options. For those investors who have a college plan in place, this is a great time to make sure that you are on track with savings goals. If your child is heading off to college for the 2015-16 school year, this is the time to complete the FAFSA to determine financial aid qualifications. Be aware that you can complete the FAFSA as early as January with estimated tax figures.
April- Adjust your income tax withholdings
Now that the tax dust has settled, focus on reviewing your withholdings. Did you get a refund or did you owe? By reviewing your W-4 regularly and adjusting withholdings as needed, taxpayers can better manage their cash flow, which could provide increased monthly take home pay. In addition, it can help avoid unexpected taxes at filing time and penalties for underpayment.
May- Disability Awareness Month
One of the most often over-looked types of risk management is disability insurance. The month of May is a great time to speak about the options with your advisor. Occasionally, employees are offered disability insurance through their employer, and those policies should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that benefits are adequate. If it isn’t adequate, proper disability coverage may be supplemented with an individually purchased stand-alone policy.
June- Perform a mid-year check up
A mid-year financial checkup is a worthwhile process that can pay major dividends later in the year. You created goals at the start of the year and this is the best time to track the progress. Do not be too hard on yourself if you are not completely in line with savings goals. Assess the shortfall and reorganize the plan.
July- Check your credit report
Knowing your credit score and the actions that positively and negatively affect scores is an imperative aspect of managing your financial life. Every person is entitled by The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to obtain a free credit report every 12 months. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to order your report.
August- Track your net worth
Tracking your net worth is an important step in planning for long-term financial success. What is net worth? Net Worth = Assets – Liabilities. A net worth statement is a financial snapshot on a given day, and a periodic review provides a quick assessment of overall financial condition.
September- Life Insurance Awareness Month
Protecting yourself and your family in case of accident, illness, or death is important. Evaluate your insurance coverage through your employer as well as personal insurance policies. Are your risks adequately covered? There are several aspects that are important to consider when researching life insurance, such as type of insurance, common uses, amount of coverage, length of coverage, and premium amount. To learn more, you should consult with your advisor.
October- Evaluate employee benefits
As the years change, so do employer benefits. Open enrollment is the time to review what your employer offers to help you manage finances. Did you have a baby this year? If so, you may be interested in the dependent care flexible spending account. Is your employer offering a high-deductible health insurance plan? If so, you should examine the benefits of a health savings account.
November – Review your estate plan
As Thanksgiving nears, this is the time of year that many people gather together with family. Taking care of our families is often a top priority and this month’s goal is to focus on creating or reviewing your estate plan so that your wishes will be carried out should anything ever happen. Click here to learn more about estate planning.
December- Year-end review
The end of the year is the perfect time to evaluate your goals and progress. If you have not taken full advantage of your financial accounts, consider increasing your retirement plan contributions and make sure that your emergency account is fully funded. You should also review any potential capital gains distributions and speak with your advisor about tax strategies.
There are many details to consider when it comes to managing your finances. Instead of trying to tackle things all at once, focus on one thing each month. This strategy might make 2015 your best year yet.