I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!
At the beginning of every New Year, I always like to take the opportunity to remind everyone that it is the perfect time of year to recommit to keeping your financial affairs in order. In an ever complicated, ever changing world, it’s more important than ever that we keep our personal financial affairs in order. I know sometimes it appears that it’s a daunting task; however, if you break it down and focus on one issue at a time, it will make things easier for you. As far as I’m concerned, there are five main areas that you need to consider when it comes to personal finance. The five areas that I believe you need to focus on are estate planning, taxes, risk management, debt management and investments.
It is important that on an occasional basis you review any estate planning documents you have done to ensure they are accurate and up to date. On the other hand, if you have not done any estate planning, now is the time. Remember, estate planning is more than just planning for your death; it is also planning for such things as family emergencies. Never forget that the main reason you do any estate planning is not to save on taxes and avoid probate but rather, you do estate planning because you love your family and you want to make life easier for them when you’re either not around or in case of a family emergency.
Taxes are important, but also remember the goal is not to lower your taxes but rather, to be smart with them. The key is to look at your individual situation and do things that are smart for you. The strategy that works for your next door neighbor doesn’t necessarily work for you. Therefore, the key with taxes is to focus on your individual situation and what makes sense for you.
When it comes to risk management, remember that risk management is different than insurance. Insurance is just a means to cover risk. Therefore, the key is to identify any risk you have and then decide if you can assume that risk or you need another way to deal with it. One way that most people handle risk is to buy insurance to cover it. That is why we have homeowners, automobile and life insurance. The key when you have insurance is to make sure that you shop coverages and look for ways to be more efficient, such as raising your deductible. Don’t forget, you should always look at your coverages and decide whether you still need them or not. If you don’t need the coverage why continue to pay for it? Remember, you buy insurance to cover financial losses. If there’s no financial loss, you don’t need insurance.
I cannot stress how important it is to review your debt situation. Debt has a way of strangling people and it’s always important that you keep debt under control. It is important at all times that you review your debt situation and make sure you’re being efficient with it. Particularly, with the new tax law, many people will be taking the standard deduction as opposed to itemizing their deductions; thus, the way you handle debt may be different. Even though everyone’s debt situation is different, one thing I can tell you is if you have charge card debt, it is the type of debt you need to reduce and extinguish as soon as you can.
Lastly, from an investment standpoint it is always important that your portfolio reflect your current goals and objectives and risk tolerance level. Investors who do not have a game plan and who let the day-to-day volatility of the market dictate their decisions are not going to be successful. All successful investors need a game plan. In addition, if you have not yet set up an investment portfolio, there is no time like the present.
The aforementioned are the five areas that I believe you need to focus on in order to keep your financial affairs in order. I recognize it’s not an easy task; however, the reality of the situation is that if you don’t keep your financial affairs in order, the consequence can be severe, not only to you, but to your family. Therefore, as we start 2019, spending some time getting your financial affairs in order, will be time well spent.
Rick is a fee-only financial advisor. If you would like Rick to respond to your questions, please email him at email@example.com.