By: Mark Thatcher, CRPC®
Are goals on your mind? It’s that time of year for New Year’s resolutions and social media posts about lofty plans for the future. For most of us, a new year brings renewed motivation and excitement for the future, but to make that future a reality, you need to go one step further. Your good intentions need to be coupled with practical steps that get you closer to your goal, one step at a time.
And since finance-related resolutions consistently fall in the top five most popular New Year’s resolutions, (*1) we want to make it easy for you to take action by giving you 5 ways to jump-start your finances in 2020!
Before diving deep into the details, take a moment to get a big picture of your finances. Have you picked up some less-than-stellar spending habits? Do you regret how you’ve spent your money or neglected to save? Are there certain areas in which you excel? Whatever your financial life has looked like in the past, instead of dwelling on what you wish you could have done differently, learn from your mistakes. Reflect on what worked and what didn’t, and then take your newfound insight and wisdom and move forward. Take stock of your current financial situation, including income, savings, debt, and expenses, and decide what you want them to look like in both the short term and long term.
If you are ready to start conquering your goals, one of the first steps you need to take is to eliminate debt. When you pay 10-30% interest on any number of credit cards or loans, you limit the amount of money you have available to put toward your goals, whether that’s maximizing your retirement account or going on a dream vacation. 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, to gain some momentum. Use a debt calculator to calculate out how long it will take to pay off your debt, then build extra payments into your monthly budget so you aren’t tempted to spend that money elsewhere.
To prevent accumulating more debt, create an emergency fund. By setting up 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.
If you aren’t already saving for your future, the sooner you start, the better. And if you already have a savings plan, find ways to save more by cutting back on expenses, channeling a healthy percentage of any raises and bonuses directly to savings, and automating savings increases of 1% of your paycheck every few months. It may not seem like you are making much of an impact, but every dollar helps. Your increased savings can be invested into your company 401(k), 403(b), or your personal IRA.
Then watch the magic of compound interest grow your money over time as you earn interest not just on your principal but your interest as well, making your money work smarter rather than harder as you pursue your goals. That’s motivation enough to keep working toward your goals!
On the savings note, make sure you’re investing your hard-earned money properly. 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, especially in our current volatile market.
Work with a financial professional to determine your risk tolerance level and create an investment strategy that will give your portfolio a clear sense of purpose. It’s also critical to rebalance on occasion to ensure your portfolio is still aligned with your goals and time horizon.
Whatever your situation, whatever your goals, a financial professional can walk you through each of these steps to get your financial plan in shape. You’re much more likely to make your New Year’s resolution a reality if you have a concrete plan in place. At Cypress Wealth Services, we believe that a strong planning process is the best way to create a more financially secure plan. If you want our help to create a customized, detailed blueprint of what you need to do to meet your goals, call our office at 866.888.6563 to get started.
Cypress Wealth Services is an independent RIA firm providing financial planning and investment management to high net worth individuals, families, business owners, and institutions. Cypress Wealth Services comprises professionals with diverse backgrounds and extensive experience and qualifications. Cypress Wealth Services is uniquely qualified to serve a broad range of client needs, and their experience and expertise act as a foundation for their client service process. The firm uses The Second Growth, which focuses on efficiently protecting, growing, and transferring to their loved ones the wealth and legacy a person has already built. With offices in Palm Desert, CA, Tustin, CA, and Anchorage, AK, the firm serves clients across the country in Wealth Management Services, Fiduciary Services, 401(k) Design, and Management, Investment Reporting Services, Financial and Retirement Planning, and more. For more information, visit www.CypressWS.com or call 760.834.7250.