New Year, New Goals: Evaluate Your Finances and Make a Plan for 2017

shj121916_new_years_resolution_blog_image2016 has been a whirlwind of a year, but hopefully not on your finances. Life changes and with it come new expenses or new financial goals. It’s important to regularly check in on your finances to ensure you are staying on track. What better time than the new year?

Here are 5 things to review as we move into 2017:

Income and expenses
The key to managing a spending plan is knowing how much money is coming in and how much is going out. As we head into the new year, review your pay stubs, earnings reports and other sources of income and crunch some numbers. Once you’ve figured out your income, do the same with your expenses.

Try out an online budget tool or use online banking to automatically categorize your expenses so you can see where you are spending the most. Pull up your budget from last year to see what may have changed and adjust as needed. Remember to be realistic about how much you will spend, not how much you want to spend.

Financial goals
Every year brings new goals and challenges. Maybe your son started college or you are an angel investor in your daughter’s startup or maybe you are planning on retiring this year. Whatever the New Year holds, it’s important to look at and reevaluate your financial goals. Spend some time thinking through your goals on your own, but also reach out to schedule an appointment with your financial planner. An outside perspective can help make your goals realistic and tangible.

Interest rates
Are your credit card rates high? Ask your credit card company if your rate can be lowered. Is your mortgage interest rate higher than the current rates? It may be time for a refinance. Interest rates work for and against you, and as we roll into 2017 it’s important to analyze your rates and see if you could do better. If you have questions about interest rates, talk to a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®). They can help you understand when it makes sense to refinance a mortgage and advise on where savings are available.

Retirement accounts
Did you or your spouse get a new job this year with a new 401(k)? It’s easy to forget to keep your retirement accounts organized. Get familiar with your new 401(k) or IRA and talk with your CFP® about your options for retirement savings. They can help you analyze your retirement goals and help sort through your options to keep you on track.

Savings accounts
Did you know it’s possible to have too much in cash savings? The general rule of thumb is to keep 6 months of critical expenses liquid in case of emergencies or 9 months if you are self-employed. At the end of the year, evaluate your savings account. If you have more than 6 months saved (based on your monthly expenses) it may be in your best interest to invest this money for long-term goals. Talk with your CFP® about your specific goals before making any decisions.

A new year means a fresh start. Stay on track in 2017 and strive towards your financial goals!

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