This article was published in the New Haven Register on December 21, 2018
One year ends and another begins. While you should practice mindful money management year-round, the New Year’s period marks a good time to reflect on the past year and prepare for the next.
Start with reflection: Look back on 2018 and determine whether you reached your financial goals. If not, what happened? Perhaps your financial situation or your life circumstances underwent a major change. Maybe you weren’t able to allocate enough money to savings. If so, it’s important for you to understand why. Revisit your written goal list: Update where needed and give some thought to whether your financial actions are aligning properly with your goals and objectives.
In addition, determine whether your investment portfolio remains on track. Did you or your financial planner review your asset allocation? You may also need to consider making changes to your portfolio based on changes to your life situation or the economy.
Other items to consider as part of a year-end checkup: update your beneficiaries, check your credit report, review your insurance portfolio, maximize contributions to your Health Savings Account, and check over your expenses for any automatic payments for products or services you are no longer using.
Next, it’s time to make some resolutions for the new year. Here are some ideas, if you are not already taking these steps:
Banish debt. Having to pay off debt, especially credit card debt, is a double drag on your financial goals — you send dollars off to pay for former acquisitions, and you pay interest, resulting in fewer dollars going into savings and investments for the future. If you have debts, make paying them off one of your top priorities. Pay off debts bearing the highest interest rates first.
Pay yourself first. Set up an automatic savings plan so that some portion of your income goes directly into a savings and/or investment account before it can land in your checking account. The same idea applies to your IRA and any retirement savings plan offered at your workplace, such as a 401(k) plan — direct money to those accounts first, so you know those dollars are working for you. And try to contribute the maximum amount permissible, especially if the company offers matching dollars.
Start an emergency fund. Start building a special account, called an emergency fund, with three to six months of living expenses available in a savings account or a money market fund. This fund gives you peace of mind knowing that you can handle unexpected expenses without raiding your other savings and investment accounts.
Budget, budget, budget. Many people resist writing up a budget plan but having a written plan to follow can pay big dividends down the line. If you know exactly how much money you make and how much you spend, and what you spend it on, it’s easier to identify areas where you can cut spending and increase savings and investment.
A Certified Financial Planner (CFP) can help you with any or all of these financial best practices.
Eric Tashlein is a Certified Financial Planner professional and founding Principal of Connecticut Capital Management Group LLC, 2 Schooner Lane, Suite 1-12, in Milford. He can be reached at 203-877-1520 or through www.connecticutcapital.com. This is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as personalized investment advice or legal/tax advice. Please consult your advisor/attorney/tax advisor. Registered Representative, Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisor Representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors Inc., A Registered Investment Advisor. Cambridge Investment Research Inc., and Connecticut Capital Management Group LLC are not affiliated.