Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Have you had enough reminders about your New Year's Resolutions? Are you trying to lose weight, right-size or down-size, quit smoking, or take your estate planning attorney to lunch more often (gratuitous suggestion, I know)?
I get it.
But, indulge me. I really do have your best interests at heart, to include your pocketbook.
Did you know a recent survey by the Charles Schwab investment folks revealed that three out of four Americans ranked “get your finances in check” as their first or second choice resolution? Another recent survey, this one from the National Endowment for Financial Education, found that 64 percent of U.S. adults will make a financially focused goal in 2015.
In fact, the Chicago News Service recently reported on the latter survey in an article titled “Got an hour? Tackle these money tasks.”
What does all of this tell me? Getting fiscally-fit is a priority worthy of a little extra encouragement and direction for many Americans.
Practically speaking, the first question you might ask is “Where am I going to get the money to fund these goals?”
Fortunately, most goals can be funded over time, even with a tax refund from the IRS (last year the average was about $3,000)
In no particular priority order, here are a few tasks put on your "get done" list with a date certain for completion:
- Join a credit union. Or think about whether a small community bank would be able to meet your needs with fewer fees and lower loan rates than the big guys.
- Get out of debt. While this may take some time, it is the foundation of a sound financial plan. Think Dave Ramsey!
- Choose a better credit card. Get a card that fits your needs better, or consider going without. Pay off your balance each month without fail.
- Start saving for college. With school-age kids, you should click over to your state's college savings website and open a 529 college savings account and set up a recurring contribution, even if it is just a few dollars a month. Develop the habit now.
- Start your emergency fund. Why? Because you might need it! Just 38 percent of Americans have enough money in their savings accounts to pay for unexpected expenses, and nearly 56 percent of Americans have no rainy day fund at all. Not good.
- Review your wireless plan. Another way to save is to examine what you spend each month on your cell phone. Take out a sharp pencil and make sure you are on the right plan for your situation.
- Raise your retirement contribution. Up your contribution to at least 10 percent.
- Make a will. Set an appointment this week with an experienced estate planning attorney to create a will, a durable power of attorney, and an advance health directive.
- Cook. This is a big one: an American family of four spends about $3,800 per year on eating. Dine out because you want to, not because you are a crummy meal planner. Make a plan to cook at home and cook in batches to freeze meals for later. By the way, cooking at home can help you toward that weight loss goal, as well.
- Check on your nest egg. When is the last time you did any retirement planning? Be sure to consult with an experienced financial advisor who specializes in this area.
There is more to be gleaned on this important topic in the original article. Be sure to contact an experienced estate planning attorney about getting your act together legally. He or she can also find an excellent financial advisor if you need one to help with savings, investing and retirement planning.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri) and to download free tools to help you organize your estate, visit my estate planning website.
Reference: Chicago News Service (January 25, 2015) “Got an hour? Tackle these money tasks”