New Year, New You: Financial Planning Tips for the New Year (Part 1 of 2)
Can you believe it’s already December? And just like that, another year has flown by! In a few weeks, it’ll be time to get out your party hats, black eyed peas, noise makers, and confetti to say goodbye to 2016 and welcome in 2017. What are your New Year’s resolutions? Popular resolutions always include get in shape, lose weight, career and education goals, pick up a new or lapsed hobby, volunteer more, and spend more quality time with family and friends. As each year brings its own personal goals and associated challenges, all these resolutions are worthwhile endeavors. But have you considered any financial planning goals and resolutions for 2017? After all, the start of the New Year is an opportune time to overhaul and enhance your financial life. Here’s a list of financial planning tips for the New Year you may want to consider:
Look at your saving habits from this past year and make a savings plan for 2017
Look over your financials from 2016. How much money did you earn? How much money did you save? To make saving money easier and “force” yourself to save rather than spend money, make the savings process automatic. Designate a specific percentage of your income to automatically be placed in your savings account or employee-sponsored retirement savings plan. Also, many of the country’s biggest financial institutions make it more convenient for customers to put money into their separate savings account via automated savings programs.
For example, Wells Fargo has the Way2Save program. When you sign up for the Ways2Save account’s Save As You Go transfers, the bank will transfer $1 of your funds from your linked Wells Fargo checking account to your Wells Fargo Way2Save Savings account every time you: make a debit card purchase (using a PIN or signature), pay a bill online with Wells Fargo Bill Pay, and have an automatic payment deducted from your linked checking account. At Bank of America, you can choose to enroll in a savings program called Keep the Change.
If you opt in to this savings program, when you make everyday purchases with your Bank of America debit card, the bank will: round up your purchase to the nearest dollar amount, transfer the difference from your checking account to your savings account, and track your savings in online banking. Many other banks have similar automatic savings programs to the programs discussed here. Note: we are not specifically endorsing or recommending a specific bank or bank-sponsored automatic savings program to use; before opening any bank account whether it be a checking account or savings account or enrolling in a bank’s automatic savings program, make sure you shop around and compare various programs and banks and types of accounts and completely understand what you’re are signing up for by reading all associated documents and discussing the various programs with a bank representative and a financial advisor, if you have one.
Track spending to create a livable budget
Just how tracking and writing down everything you eat is often one of the best ways to successfully diet, tracking and writing down everything you spend is often one of the best ways to successfully create a livable budget for the upcoming year. For an entire month, make it a goal to write down everything you spend. It’s best to do this by category—for example, rent, fixed bills, food, entertainment, insurance, and etc. Some banks, financial institutions, and debit and credit card companies may have programs that automatically track and categorize your expenditures. Use the information you have gleaned from your month of tracked expenditures to create a livable budget for the New Year.
Find out your credit score and review your credit report for errors
Your credit score can have a huge impact on financial planning, financial options, and your current and future financial livelihood. Your credit score is calculated using a scoring model that incorporates many different pieces of credit data on your credit report; your credit store is not a static number but rather often changes frequently. It’s imperative that you know what your credit score is. According to the Federal Trade Commission, “You’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies.
Order online from annualcreditreport.com, the only authorized website for free credit reports, or call 1-877-322-8228. You will need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.” For more information on credit scores and how they are calculated, read this previously published Summit blog. Additionally, even if you are working with a financial advisor to help with your financial planning needs, it is your personal responsibility to check your credit reports for errors and if necessary, dispute any errors you may find. To learn more about this process, read this previously published Summit blog.
If you’re already working with a financial planner, schedule your annual review
A critical part of the financial planning process is the annual client review, which should be conducted on at least a yearly basis. The annual client review is a time for the financial advisor to measure a client’s progress and performance against their financial plan and other benchmarks and make adjustments as needed. The annual review also provides the financial advisor with an opportunity to look at changes in the client’s life over the past year such as but not limited to marriage or divorce, birth of a child, death, major purchases, and a new job. The beginning of the New Year is typically the best time to schedule your annual review because not only will you be beginning a new tax/fiscal year but also the New Year often means the start of new or amended federal and state tax laws, estate laws, and fiscal laws that could affect your 2017 (and multi-year, long-term) financial plan.
To learn more financial planning tips for the New Year, check back on the Summit blog for the second part of this blog. For more information on Summit Brokerage Services and our independent financial advisors, visit www.joinsummit.com or contact us at (800) 354-5528.
About Summit Brokerage Services, Inc.
Summit Brokerage Services is part of Cetera Financial Group. Summit Brokerage provides a broad range of securities brokerage and investment services to primarily individual investors. Summit Brokerage also sells insurance products, predominantly fixed and variable annuities and life insurance through its subsidiary, SBS Insurance Agency of Florida. Summit Brokerage also provides asset management services through its investment advisor, Summit Financial Group, Inc.
About Cetera Financial Group
Cetera Financial Group® (“Cetera”) is a leading network of independent retail broker-dealers empowering the delivery of objective financial planning advice to individuals, families and company retirement plans across the country through trusted financial advisors and financial institutions. Cetera is the second-largest independent financial advisor network in the nation by number of advisors, as well as a leading provider of retail services to the investment programs of banks and credit unions.
Through its multiple distinct firms, Cetera offers independent and institutions-based advisors the benefits of a large, established broker-dealer and registered investment adviser, while serving advisors and institutions in a way that is customized to their needs and aspirations. Advisor support resources offered through Cetera include award-winning wealth management and financial planning and advisory platforms, comprehensive broker-dealer and registered investment adviser services, practice management support and innovative technology. For more information, visit www.ceterafinancialgroup.com.
*”Cetera Financial Group” refers to the network of retail independent broker-dealers encompassing, among others, Cetera Advisors, Cetera Advisor Networks, Cetera Financial Institutions, Cetera Financial Specialists, First Allied Securities, Girard Securities, The Legend Group and Summit Brokerage Services.