New Year’s Resolutions
As evidenced by the 263,700 people who posted the results of their “first-time baker” kitchen experiments on social media in May, 2020, people were trying new things last year. There was also a resurgence in doing puzzles, reading books, family game nights and many other activities that people enjoy but somehow had lost the time for. Pandemic stay-at-home orders suddenly and drastically changed our lives, leaving us searching for ways to manage our physical, mental and financial wellbeing.
While we now look forward with optimism as vaccine distributions have begun, we still have a way to go in our efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus. For many, that means at least several more months ahead where we are home more often than not. Traditionally, we look at this time of year with an eye toward resolutions designed to change or improve our lives. Here is a list of helpful tips to get the new year off to a great start financially as well as physically & mentally.
- Create or review your household budget. You can use pen and paper, a simple Excel spreadsheet, download a template or use a budgeting app. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but by gathering and understanding data about your income and expenses, you can keep track of where you are spending your money and make adjustments as necessary.
- Cancel unused services. It might have sounded like a good idea to get multiple streaming services, two digital workout memberships and an online cooking class subscription, but if you aren’t actually using them, they’re unnecessarily costing you money.
- Establish or replenish your emergency fund. Aim to set aside three to six months’ worth of essential living expenses.
- Invest the money you’re saving. With less traveling, less eating out and many working from home, you may find that you’re experiencing some unexpected savings. Whether your daily latte habit or commuting costs have disappeared, consider placing that money into an investment account and watch it grow.
- Stay on guard for scams. Con artists are always active and looking for situations to exploit.
- Talk to your family about money. Younger children can benefit from your guidance with lessons about saving, credit management and compounded interest. Discussing finances with your parents can provide you with a better understanding of their situation.
- Check your credit. With three separate credit bureaus gathering information about you, there is potential for errors or incorrect information to be included and given that even one error can affect your credit, it’s wise to monitor your reports on a regular basis.
- Review and update important documents and policies. Life changes over the course of a year may require updates to important items such as wills, health care proxies, and insurance coverages.
- Evaluate the interest rate on your mortgage. With current interest rates at very low levels, it may make sense to lock in a rate below 3%.
- Reevaluate your goals. The pandemic has led to big life changes for many people. Whether it’s early retirement, a change in employment, spending more time at home or relocating to a different part of the country, take a closer look at your goals, and if they have changed, consider if you are still on the best path to achieve them.
- Check in with a financial advisor. When you work with a financial planner who can advise you on investments, taxes, financial planning and can help you adjust to the changes life will throw your way, you can have peace of mind knowing that you have prepared for the unexpected.
- Practice self-care. Take regular “screen breaks” if you are on a computer for long stretches of time, eat well and get enough sleep.
- Start a new book. Choose a new author or an old classic. Whether you prefer turning the pages, audio downloads or an e-reader, getting lost in a book can provide a wonderful escape from the day-to-day doldrums.
- Monitor your health. It’s important to be aware of potential COVID symptoms and test as necessary, but it’s just as vital to proactively manage diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic conditions.
- Exercise. Whether you stream digital workouts or go on walks, you can support your mental and physical wellbeing with regular movement.
- Take advantage of technology. Choose to video conference whenever possible instead of meeting face to face. Whether it’s a business meeting, family gathering, doctor’s appointment or parent-teacher conference, you can enjoy the benefits of visual contact while remaining socially distanced.
- Update your passwords. The number of passwords and logins we all maintain seems to have multiplied, however vigilance is important here. Use a DIFFERENT password for each application you use. In the event an account is hacked, hackers have access to software that lets them see if you are using the same password for other applications and the potential for truly adverse consequences is real.
- Clean out your junk drawer. It’s tempting to view the new year as a fresh start to remove clutter and organize everything, especially if you’re home and looking at it more than before. It’s a lofty goal that can quickly overwhelm. Instead, start with one small success in cleaning out a drawer, then work on one closet, and so on.
- Take time for hobbies. Learn a second language, research your ancestry online, try your hand at painting or anything else that appeals to you. Decreasing your stress can make you more productive in other areas of your life.
- Stay connected. Find ways to stay connected with family and friends. When we can’t see someone in person, making the effort to speak regularly and video conference with loved ones helps to minimize the feelings of isolation.
- Find what works for you. If you haven’t already found yourself exploring new interests or revisiting hobbies you are passionate about, you still have the opportunity to make that commitment. Perhaps you’d prefer taking an online class to enhance your skills in an area of interest. There is no perfect answer, only what feels like a good fit for you.
2020 has taught us so many lessons. Taking pause to review what has and hasn’t worked for us in the past can be the key to a new year filled with opportunities and possibilities for success. Please contact us if we may provide you with more information on any of the financial tips discussed.