Seven Financial Best Practices to Jump-Start Your New Year

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Happy New Year! Now that 2017 is a wrap, one of the best presents you can bestow on yourself and your loved ones is the gift of proper preparation for the new year. Want to get a jump-start on it? Here are 7 financial best practices to energize your wealth management efforts.

  1. Save today for a better retirement tomorrow. Are you maxing out pre-tax contributions to your company retirement plan? Taking full advantage of your and your spouse’s company retirement plans is an important, tax-advantaged way to save for retirement, especially if your employer matches some of your contributions with “extra” money. And, by the way, if you are 50 or older, you may be able to make additional “catch-up contributions” to your plan, to further accelerate your retirement-ready investing.
  2. Verify your valuables are still covered. Most households have insurance: home, auto, life … maybe disability and/or umbrella. But when is the last time you’ve checked to see if these policies remain right for you? Over time, it’s easy to end up with gaps or overlaps, like too much or not enough coverage, deductibles that warrant a fresh take, or beneficiaries who need to be added or removed. If you’ve not performed an insurance “audit” recently, there’s no time like the present to cross this one off your list.
  3. Get a grip on your debt load. Investment returns will only take you so far if excessive debt is weighing you down. Prioritize paying down high-interest credit cards and similar high-cost debt first, and at least meeting minimums on the rest. You may also want to revisit whether you still hold the best credit cards for your circumstances. Do the interest rates, incentives, protections and other perks still reflect your needs? Ditto on that for your home loan.
  4. Check up on your credit reports. Speaking of those credit cards, have you been periodically requesting your free annual credit report from each of the three primary credit reporting agencies? Be sure to use AnnualCreditReport.com for this purpose, as it’s the only federally authorized source for doing so. By staggering your requests – submitting to one agency every fourth month – you can keep an ongoing eye on your credit, which seems especially important in the wake of last summer’s Equifax breach.
  5. Give your investments a good inspection. Where do you stand with your personal wealth? Have you got an investment strategy to see you through? Does your portfolio reflect your personal goals and risk tolerances? If you experienced strong growth in 2017, is it time to lock in some of those gains by rebalancing your portfolio to its original strategic mix? While investment management is a marathon of patient perspective rather than a short-sighted sprint of mad dashes, a new year makes this as good a time as any to review the terrain.
  6. Ensure your estate plans are current. Do you have wills, power of attorney, health care proxies and/or trusts in place for you and your loved ones? If so, when is the last time you took a look at them? Your family may have experienced births, deaths, marriages or divorces. Dependents may have matured. You may have acquired or sold business interests, and added new assets or let go of old ones. Your original intentions may have changed, or government regulations may have changed them for you. Lastly, complete a personal document locator as a helpful tool to record the location of valuable papers, assets and other important items. It will assist your family in locating all of your relevant documents and disposing of your estate in the manner you directed.
  7. Give your newly adult children the gift of continued care. Have any of your children turned 18 recently? You may send them off to college or a career, assuming you can still be there for them should an emergency arise. Be forewarned! If you don’t have the legal paperwork in place, healthcare providers and others may be unable to respond to your requests or even discuss your adult child’s personal information with you. To remain involved in their healthcare interests, you’ll want to have a healthcare power of attorney, durable power of attorney and HIPAA authorization in place. It may also be prudent to establish education record release authorizations while you’re at it.

Next Steps in the New Year

We get it. Life never stops. The holiday season can be a busy time that often spills right into the new year. Don’t despair if you can’t get to all seven of these tidbits at once. Take on one each month, and you’ll still have a month to spare before taking that summer vacation you already started planning.

Better yet, don’t go it alone. Let us know if we can help you turn your financial planning jump-start into a mighty wealth management leap towards unlocking a secure future. It begins with an exploratory conversation.

 

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Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date, but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author on the date of publication and are subject to change. Content should not be viewed as personalized investment advice or as an offer to buy or sell the securities mentioned. A professional advisor should be consulted before implementing any of the strategies presented. 
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