As 2019 kicks off, it encourages fresh starts, good intentions, and yes – New Year’s resolutions. Many people turn their thoughts to improving their physical health or shedding a few pounds. It is also a great time to commit to getting in better financial shape.
Pay Down Debt:
The number one New Year’s resolution is to lose weight; the holidays are known for irresistible food, treats, and drinks. But that’s not the only area where we may find ourselves overindulging. This is the time of year to make big purchases to give gifts to family, friends and ourselves.
The best practice is to pay down credit card balances in full before the end of the billing period. This avoids finance charges and makes sure your purchases are not more expensive than you intended. If you have more than one credit card, focus first on the card with the highest interest rate since it’s “costing” you the most in interest.
One method to keep from overextending yourself next holiday season is setting aside funds throughout the year in a separate savings account so gifts can be purchased with cash, not on credit.
Setting money aside is important to help you achieve your financial goals. There are a variety of reasons for saving, but one area that is often overlooked is emergency savings. This is an account that is liquid and available in the event extra funds are needed to pay for something that is unplanned but necessary and outside of your monthly living expenses.
Retirement savings can be accomplished with either an employer-provided retirement plan such as a 401(k). If one is not provided, an Individual Retirement Arrangement account, or IRA might be an option. In 2019, annual contributions to both 401(k)s and IRAs have increased by $500. The maximum 401(k) contribution is now $19,000 from $18,500 last year for anyone under 50. It increases to $25,000 for those over 50 to allow them to make a catch-up contribution of $6,000 per year. For IRAs, the maximum contribution has increased to $6,000 with an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution for those over 50.
Like saving more, spending less is a good way to allocate money toward your financial goals. The first step is to first look at where your money goes. Like counting calories on a diet, tracking your spending can be an eye-opener. While it may appear difficult and arduous, there are apps that link to bank accounts making tracking much easier and less time consuming.
Three months tracking should be good enough for you to identify trends and find “spending leaks” or areas where you spend money without realizing it. Then you can make decisions on where to spend less. It’s important to continue to track your spending so you can see the difference that even small changes make to your bottom line.
While the start of a new year is a good opportunity to plan financial goals and make positive changes to your spending, it’s never too late to improve your financial picture. Stick to these suggestions and continue making progress and you’ll have more to celebrate in 2020 than the New Year!
The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete, it is not a statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision, and it does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of Raymond James. 401(k) plans are long-term retirement savings vehicles. Withdrawal of pre-tax contributions and/or earnings will be subject to ordinary income tax and, if taken prior to age 59 1/2, may be subject to a 10% federal tax penalty. IRA tax deductibility and contribution eligibility may be restricted if your income exceeds certain limits, please consult with a financial professional for more information.