As you prepare to pack up holiday decorations and say goodbye to out-of-town guests, don’t close the book on this year just yet. Set yourself up for success by reviewing your finances before January 1. Grab your favorite mug, fill it with hot chocolate, snuggle up by the fireplace, and review this end-of-year financial checklist to guide you toward a prosperous new year.
NEW YEAR FINANCIAL CHECKLIST
□ Follow a Personal Finance Blog
Learn more about money management so you can improve your finances in the new year. This might include checking out a library book or attending a financial seminar. A simple way to increase your financial knowledge without leaving home is by following a personal finance blog like SkyOne FCU’s Financial Freedom blog. Monthly posts cover a variety of topics that affect your financial well-being.
□ Set Financial Goals
Financial security rarely happens by accident. Annual goals can clarify what action you need to take and when you need to take it so you can achieve the desired results. Establishing goals based on your finances and desired lifestyle starts by writing them down. Make sure your financial goals are specific, measurable, and time-based. For example, “I will put $100 a month in a Sky-high Savings account to build 3-6 months of monthly expenses as an emergency fund.” This is much more effective than “I want to put money into a savings account.”
Decide on your goals for the new year by first examining your current financial status. Reviewing your financial accounts and budget might reveal a lingering credit bill you need to prioritize for payment or a gym membership you need to cancel since it hasn’t used in five months.
Note: As of March 2, 2020, our Sky-high Savings account is paying a jaw-dropping 1.80% APY. You’ll surely get to your goal much faster. Not many credit union savings accounts that pay that high, and you can forget about the big banks.
□ Update Your Policies
Changes to your household, e.g., marriage, new baby, a different job, etc., this past year should have triggered updates to retirement plans, healthcare benefits, life insurance policies, or other documents that name beneficiaries. If you missed an update, you might still be able to make the change. Or, if you’re planning a significant life event in the coming year, mark your calendar, so you don’t miss updating essential documents.
□ Check Your Retirement Contributions
Did you receive a pay increase or decrease this year? Depending on your financial goals, you might want to update your federal withholdings and retirement plan contributions. Use the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator to help determine if a change is needed. A pay increase can result in a decision to invest more funds in your retirement savings.
Review your withholdings and retirement accounts to confirm whether you’re meeting your savings targets as part of an overall retirement savings strategy.
□ Review Your Credit History Report
Poor credit health is costly. Low credit scores increase the cost of borrowing money due to higher interest rates and less than favorable terms. This leaves less disposable income to meet other financial goals. Consumers with numerous late payments to creditors and maxed out credit cards aren’t the only ones susceptible to poor credit history. Incorrect data on your credit history report can also negatively affect your credit health. Credit reporting bureaus won’t alert you if they receive conflicting or inaccurate information on your credit report. Consumers are responsible for monitoring their credit reports. Fortunately, you can request your reports for free once a year.
Order a copy of each of your credit history reports from AnnualCreditReport.com and review them for accuracy. Common credit reporting errors include incorrect account status, duplicate information, and mistaken account balances.
A regular review of your financial life can alert you to changes you need to make to meet your long-term savings goals. If you made progress this year toward a specific financial milestone, don’t forget to treat yourself to another mug of hot chocolate, with extra marshmallows. Happy New Year!