New Year’s resolutions have always overwhelmed me. They feel big and lofty – committing to a transformational behavior for 12-months is hard, and I’m not alone. In fact, research shows that roughly 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail. I have never succeeded long-term when it comes to resolutions, especially when they’re “don’t-lists”, like don’t eat chocolate, or don’t spend money. However, anyone who knows me well knows that I excel when it comes to my “to-do” lists. The gratification I get from crossing something off the list is enough motivation for me to accomplish the task. With that spirit in mind, I have created a monthly financial to-do list. This is the schedule I assembled for my family, but I encourage you to adapt it as needed. My hope is that these smaller tasks allow all of us, myself included, to improve our financial health in 2023.
January: Set financial goals for 2023.
- It’s important to set an intention for the year ahead. Start out by making a net worth and cash flow statement. In addition, list out the things that are important to you, including things like emergency savings, retirement savings, charitable giving and education savings. Automate deposits where possible. Don’t forget to think about large expenses for the year, like travel plans, that may also require some financial planning.
February: Let’s get organized.
- Clear out the clutter! Digitize what you can. Determine how you plan to stay organized during the year – spreadsheets? Digital apps? Set up auto-pay on credit cards or add recurring payment reminders to your calendar. If you pay quarterly estimates, add those reminders to your calendar as well. Go paperless if possible!
March: It’s time to tax prep!
- Preparation and organization are critical to success during tax season. Gather all relevant tax documentation, including materials for tax deductions and credits that you may be eligible for. If filing on your own, be sure to use software that you’re comfortable with. If using a professional, make an appointment!
April: Review your investment portfolio.
- We encourage clients to meet with an advisor at least annually to ensure they’re on track to meeting their financial goals. If you haven’t been in touch with your advisor in some time, April is a great opportunity to set up an appointment. In this meeting, plan to discuss how your money is invested, investment performance, upcoming financial needs and anything else on your mind.
May: Review your estate plan.
- Life happens and things change quickly. Take some time to either kick off the estate planning process or read through your most recent estate plan to ensure everything is current. This is also a great month to review beneficiaries on all accounts. Our law firm, Bloom, Bloom & Associates can help answer questions about your estate plan or make updates if needed.
June: Check in on your insurance coverage.
- Insurance is important, but expensive. Be sure to review your coverage (home, auto, life, etc.) annually to confirm your assets are protected. My policies come due in June, so this time of year works for me. I always encourage clients to shop around to see if there are any opportunities for cost savings. Clients can always check in with one of our advisors to discuss their overall insurance needs. Although we are fiduciaries and do not sell insurance, we can absolutely help you source coverage and determine what you actually need.
July: Revisit your cash flow and net worth statements.
- We’re halfway through the year. For many, monthly budgets can be challenging because expenses ebb and flow (e.g., large annual expenses can hit at different times of the year). Check in with how things are going by refreshing your cash flow and net worth statements. Are you meeting your other financial goals or does your budget need to be reevaluated? Now is the time!
August: Evaluate your credit cards.
- While credit card debt is rising, so are interest rates – which means carrying a balance is getting more expensive. Now is the time to rethink your credit card strategy. This means reviewing the interest rates and costs as well as the benefits. Many cards come with annual fees (AMEX Platinum is a whopping $695/year), so if the benefits aren’t relevant to you, it might be time to part ways.
September: Review subscriptions.
- We have subscriptions for everything these days – streaming services, magazines, data storage, meat delivery, news, rideshare services, home maintenance, and the list goes on. Outline the subscriptions and packages that you currently pay for to determine what you need. I suggest reviewing your credit card statements as there may be some hidden subscriptions that you didn’t even realize you had been paying for.
October: Prepare for open enrollment.
- Employers generally start their open enrollment season in the fall. The same is true for Medicare. Even if you’re happy with your insurance, remember that plans change each year, and you could be facing higher deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance, or less generous coverage for your prescriptions. Open enrollment period starts October 15th and lasts until December 7th, so now is the time to start doing some research.
November: Make a budget for the holidays.
- It might not seem like it, but the holiday season is just around the corner. Holiday budgets can quickly get out of hand as shoppers are tempted by Black Friday deals and other promotional programs. Outline your budget early on so that you have a plan forward and spend within your limits. If you give charitably, don’t forget to include that in your budget, as organizations often reach out this time of year.
December: Finish strong.
- With the year ending, there may be some wise financial (and tax) opportunities to take advantage of. If you’re ending the year with a surplus of cash, now is a great time to develop a plan with your advisor. Some strategies may include paying off debt, executing a Roth conversion, investing new money, or contributing to an education savings plan. While each individual situation is unique, your financial advisor can help you determine which option is best for you.
Hopefully this monthly to-do list allows me to address all of my personal financial affairs without feeling overwhelmed. May the new year be full of great health and success, both financial and otherwise, for all of us!