Chronicles Of A Father With Cents

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A Personal Finance Checklist for the New Year

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The New Year is here!! With so much going on with the holidays now in our rear view mirror and with many people setting new goals, personally and professionally it’s also time to have a financial checklist to look at for the upcoming year. It can be an overview of accounts you have or new accounts you plan to open.  This is also a chance to create new financial goals for yourself as you want to start the New Year to have a better grip on your finances.  Here is a personal finance checklist of items that you may want to into:

Review Your Retirement Contributions

If you haven’t maxed out on your work’s retirement plan (401K or 403B) the beginning of the year is great time to set that up.  If your company offers a match, you might as well contribute to what they will match to your retirement account.  If it’s dollar for dollar, it’s even better when you contribute to the maximum, it’s free money they are putting on your account.  Even if your work does not provide a ‘dollar for dollar’ match it’s recommended that you contribute to highest amount that you can make, it’s one of the key factors to having a healthy retirement account.   This year the max is going to increase to from $18K to $18.5K so make those adjustments so can make the maximum contribution

The same goes if you contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (Traditional or Roth).  The maximum for both accounts is $5,500 for a whole year and if you don’t have either account you should open one especially if your company does not have a company sponsored retirement account.

Rebalancing your Investment accounts

The older you get, the less risk you want to take on your investment accounts.  When you check your investment accounts you should look into rebalancing them.  This may mean transferring a certain percentage away from a high risk stock that you own and putting them in a more conservative one so you will have less volatility on your overall portfolio.  A good rule of thumb is to deduct your age from 100 and that will give you a percentage to put into stocks and bonds.  For example, a 40 year old investor has 40% in bonds and 60% in stocks and 10 years later when he turns 50, he can have 50% in bonds and 50% in stocks.  As you get older, your portfolio should look more conservative and less risky.

Creating a Personal Income Statement

I have been doing this for about four years now where I track my expenses and income on a monthly basis.  Having such a statement will let you know how much you spend, save and give you an idea on where you can cut back on certain categories.  Creating one has helped us on giving a detailed look on how we spend and where we can improve on.  Breaking it down by categories such as utilities, internet, shopping, restaurant will help you even more.  The easiest way to track your expenses is to use online financial tools like Personal Capital and Mint.  Both sites provide a detailed breakdown on your spending habits.  However if you use cash on some of your expenses you may want to keep the receipt so you can use when you go over your monthly expenses.

I use Excel spreadsheet for my personal income statement.  I have a tab for each month where all my income from paychecks and deposits are detailed.  And I also have my expenses detailed as well where I deduct it from my income and come up with how much I saved for the month.  My first year doing this was very simple where I did just that.  But now I have calculated my savings rate, graphs and sums of my income and expenses for the whole year.

Just have a personal income statement is great idea to have so you know your financial standing is on a monthly basis.  It also can help you….

Set Up Your Budget

If you have a monthly budget, you should consider doing a review at the beginning of the year if you want to increase, decrease or leave it the same.  It all depends on how your spending was from the past year.  Is there room to save and thus decrease your monthly budget on going out to eat for example or you want to pay down that credit card debt even faster and see if you have room to increase your budget for that? Those are some questions you want to look at so you know what financial goals you want to accomplish for the upcoming year.

Review Your Insurance Policies

Is your life insurance up to date with the beneficiaries if you recently were married and/or had a baby? Are you okay with the current life insurance you have or do you wanted it reviewed with your insurance agent?  These are few questions you should look over because you want to be prepared if the worse happens and you pass away.  You want your family to be protected with the type of life insurance policy that fits you and your loved ones.  Having life insurance is very crucial if you have others that depend on you and want to assure them that they are taken care if you pass away.  It’s tough to think that you not being there but at least they are financially comfortable with the life insurance policy that fits your needs.

I am currently reviewing my own life policy and just added Baby with Cents as my beneficiary along with Mother with Cents who I added right after we got married.  I believe it’s very important to go over your insurance policy so you know what type you want and feel okay with.

Check if You Have Enough in Your Emergency Fund

You never know when you need an emergency fund and you want to make sure that amount will cover you for certain amount if you end up in the unemployment line. A good idea is to have about six months worth of expenses in your emergency fund.  But if you’re uncomfortable with that then you can have more than six months worth, everyone has different levels of complacency so if a year’s worth is okay with you then go for it.

A good place to leave your emergency fund is in low risk account like a high yield savings account where it can build up interest.  I just opened one a few months ago and left about nine months worth of expenses on our emergency fund.

Automate

You don’t want to miss a late payment and thus getting late fees.  You also do not want to miss that monthly contribution to your investment accounts.  Automation makes everything easier to avoid such things so you don’t have to worry about paying and contributing.  Start enrolling to automated your payments and/or contributions so you can set it, forget it and let automation do the rest.

Readers, do you have a financial checklist to begin the new year? Do you have any suggestions of what to add to this checklist? Feel free to comment below

 

 

 

12 Comments

  1. This is a great place to start out the year. I actually don’t automate almost anything – I find that I save more when I’m choosing the amount regularly and letting it ride. And similarly, when I have to go in and pay our utility bills each month, it’s a great way to think about how to reduce them in the future.

    • Our utility bills have gone up during the past year, from the $15-$20 per month to about $25-$30. I know it’s not a dramatic increase but finding ways to reduce the bill is a great way to think and set a small goal to attempt it.

  2. Happy New Year! I’m looking forward to seeing what 2018 has in store for us in terms of market returns. The signs are over inflation but bulls can run longer than they know.

    • Hey Lily, Happy New Year to you too! We will see how the market performs this year, the bull market may continue but we are due for a bear attack on the market at any point.

  3. Hi hi Kris!

    This is a great financial checklist to have for the new year! I stopped using a budget but sometimes I feel like I want to go back to one, but it’s just so time-consuming on my end. So far, we’ve been on track from Oct 2016 until Nov 2017… I haven’t checked Dec 2017 yet (goodness, where did time go??), but if our balance sheet isn’t as good and it wasn’t because markets went down, then it must have been a spending problem from our end haha.

    Oh btw, speaking of balance sheet, I think tracking your net worth will also be a great idea! Once you start that, you’ll probably become obsessed with it. haha

    • Yeah your right about tracking your net worth. That’s a great idea so you will be able to track of all of your accounts and not just your personal income statements. For me, on top of my income statements, I have all of my investments accounts tracked on Personal Capital, which a great online investment tool BTW. I may start tracking my net worth once every six months or year just to take a look how everything is going then try not to worry about it.

  4. Great reminders! I do all of the above except a monthly budget and bonds allocation. My allocation of bonds is actually quite a bit lower than my age.

    Happy new year!!

    • Happy New Year to you too GYM!! You should look into your bond allocation and see if it’s reasonable for you to have the percentage you currently have or look to buy more for your portfolio!

  5. Great list, Kris! I’m mostly doing all the things, except I need to get on the rebalancing stat! We also have some cash laying around, but definitely not six months worth of expenses. I’d rather our money be in the stock market growing, over the peace of mind. But I like to live on the edge…

    • Thanks Luxe!! Six months worth of expenses is a recommended baseline of what you should have in your emergency fund but it comes down to whatever your comfortable with. I like your mentality about putting your money in the market since you can gain more from doing that.

  6. Love this checklist Kris! One thing I feel that’s really important for me to add this year is a budget for charity. I felt last year I was so focused on my financial goals it really made me see that it left out room for helping others! I want to actually have a category for it this year so I don’t ever have to feel it’s a choice I can just skip!

    • Thanks Jing! That’s very helpful of you to think about donating in the first place. You should set up an amount that you think you can make room for in your budget and start donating to charities.
      Mother with Cents and I love to volunteer our time at the SF Food Bank where we would pack up bulk foods and sort donations from food drives. We also donate blood once a year at our local blood center.
      Donating your money/time/belongings/blood really makes you feel rewarding.

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