Foran Financial Group’s 2020 Financial Checklist
The new year signifies a fresh start, a new beginning, a reset, if you will. Many people make New Year’s resolutions this time of year, and many times, it’s a pledge to finally get their financial plans in order. However, resolutions are known to be broken, and a lot of the time, excitement and drive to make plans and create goals to accomplish are lost by February.
So, instead of encouraging another resolution, I offer a financial planning checklist. Let’s take a look at what goals you should consider for the new year.
Make 2020 the year you really do get your financial plan in place. Contact Foran Financial Group to help you get started.
Establish or Review Your Financial Plan
If you don’t currently have a financial plan in place, talk with a financial advisor and create one today. It’s never too early to start planning for the future, and in fact, the earlier you start, the more money you have the potential to make! Albert Einstein called compound interest (when your money makes money) the eighth wonder of the world. Take advantage of it!
If you do already have a financial plan in place, review it! A thorough review of your plan should be done at least once a year for a number of reasons, and what better time to do it than a new year?
An annual review allows you to revisit your financial goals and retirement plans. Are they still the same? Often, what you once think will work is different later on. Are the same people in your life? Did you change jobs? Are you making the amount of money you had hoped to at this point in your life? If any of these circumstances have changed, you may want to change your financial plan along with it.
A review is also a chance to share with your financial advisor any major life events that may have taken place that can affect your financial life. For example, did you recently start a family? Get divorced or remarry? Start your own business? Are the beneficiaries you have listed on your plans still people you wish to leave your assets to? Is there someone you need to add, such as a new child?
Another perk to having an annual review is to evaluate your progress. Is your allocation to stocks versus bonds the way you want it? Should you be invested in growth stocks or dividend-paying stocks, tax-advantaged municipal bonds or taxable bonds? We can formulate an investment strategy suited to your situation and to your financial plan. We can help you.
Revisit Your Budget
The first step to financial success is spending less than you make. Take a look at your income, including any side-hustles or new projects you’ve taken on. And then review your costs. Rent and mortgages can change, day-to-day expenses may have increased and costs could have also gone up.
This includes any debt you have. Have you paid off your student debt or opened a new credit card? Evaluate your high-interest debt first (such as credit cards and personal loans) and see if you can pay it off. When you’re paying a lot in interest, it’s hard to ever pay off the money you actually owe.
(Read our recent blog post for some of the common financial mistakes people make: 5 Most Common Retirement Mistakes.)
Make Your Retirement Plan Contributions
Whether you have a Traditional or Roth IRA, you may still be eligible to make a contribution for 2019 – you have until April 15, 2020 to do so. Remember, making a contribution now will allow that money to work for you all year long.
You may also want to reconsider the amount of your contributions. If you’re up for a raise at work but are comfortable in your living situation, increasing your retirement plan contributions may be easier than you think.
This goes for your 401(k) as well, especially if you’re not currently contributing enough to get your full employer match. Remember, an employer match is basically free money! Taking advantage of free money may sound like a no-brainer, but millions of people every year don’t, leaving behind an estimated $24 billion every year!
Take Advantage of Any Tax Benefits
There are many ways to use your money that can benefit your taxes, but not all strategies are right for everyone. Discuss your plans with a financial advisor to ensure you’re taking advantage of every opportunity.
A new year is also a good time to look at your withholdings. If you regularly receive a refund at the end of the year, talk with an advisor about changing your withholdings. While getting a check in the mail is always nice, getting it ahead of time may allow you to put that money somewhere that it can make money for your future.
Take Any Necessary RMDs
If you turn 70-½ this year, you may have to begin taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from your IRAs. Missing this deadline can result in hefty, long-term fees and taxes.
If RMDs won’t help you but instead simply bump you up to a higher tax bracket, the solution is not to simply ignore them. Instead, talk to your financial advisor about the benefits of using this money to make Qualified Charitable Deductions (QCDs) to charity. Depending on your situation, this could be a wise strategy for you.
Create or Review Your Estate Plan
If you’re still in your 20s, 30s, even 40s and 50s and don’t think an estate plan is necessary, think again.
First of all, if you have children, establishing a will and determining someone to care for your children the way you want them cared for can save a lot of heartache and stress if something was to happen to you (and the other parent) suddenly or unexpectedly.
Secondly, even if you only have a few assets worth anything, if you should pass away without an estate plan, the state in which you live has a plan for it! And chances are you won’t like it.
Financial planning in New Jersey, for example, is different than in other areas. There are many financial strategies that you may be able to take advantage of, depending on which state you reside.
Estate planning is not only for the wealthy or the retired. Talk with a financial advisor about establishing a plan … just in case.
The financial professionals associated with Foran Financial Group may discuss and/or transact business only with residents of the states in which they are properly registered or licensed. No offers may be made or accepted from any resident of any other state.