The start of a new year is a great time to take stock of your financial life. Have you done all that you can to put yourself in the best possible position? Or, have you missed out on some important financial opportunities? Take a look at where you stand and consider these key financial opportunities in 2017 and beyond that could make a big difference in your financial life.
1. Revisit your financial goals
You may have established financial goals a year ago or maybe it has been several years. Either way, it makes sense to revisit your goals and make sure they are still consistent with the direction of your life and dreams for the future. Make adjustments if anything has changed.
2. Build a sufficient emergency fund
One of the most fundamental forms of financial security is having money set aside in a “rainy day” fund to meet any emergency needs. You don’t want an unexpected expense to result in a major financial setback. It’s best to have a minimum of three-to-six months of expenses set aside, and up to a year if you can.
3. Save on interest payments
First and foremost, if you have outstanding credit card debt, make it a priority to pay down this costly form of borrowing as fast as you can. Also, take a closer look at the interest rate on your home mortgage. If it’s notably higher than today’s market rates, look into refinancing to reduce your monthly payment and put the money you save to better use.
4. Take advantage of your workplace retirement savings plan
If you participate in a 401(k) or 403(b) plan at work, make sure you are, at the very least, contributing enough into the plan to take full advantage of any employer match. It’s a “free money” opportunity and should not be overlooked. To the extent you can afford to do so, consider contributing more than the match amount to your plan.
5. Capitalize on “catch-up” contribution rules
If you are age 50 or older, you can boost contributions to your workplace savings plan and individual retirement account (IRA) by taking advantage of so-called “catch-up” rules. This can mean investing tens of thousands of additional dollars over time to help secure your financial future.
6. Establish Roth savings if you qualify
Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s allow you to build retirement savings with after-tax dollars where all distributions may qualify for tax-free treatment in the future. The potential for tax-free income in retirement can be an important benefit.
7. Make sure you are comfortable with your portfolio
Are you constantly worried what could happen to your portfolio in a market downturn because you’re taking on too much risk? On the flip side, do you think your portfolio needs to be more aggressive to keep up with your financial goals (knowing that there’s always risk with reward)? If you come up short in either area, it may be time to revisit your investments and make appropriate changes.
8. Review your protection strategy across all aspects of your life
Do you have sufficient life insurance in place to protect your loved ones? Is disability income coverage part of your mix? Are you protected against the risk of specialized care costs later in life? Are your home and personal possessions properly covered? Make sure you have a comprehensive protection strategy in place to prepare for unexpected events.
9. Get a handle on your taxes
Review past tax returns and your current financial situation with a tax professional who can help you find potential ways to reduce your tax liability. If charitable giving or volunteering is important to you, consider the tax implications of your donations.
10. Solidify your legacy plan
Make sure your will, health care directives and trust documents reflect your current priorities. Review and if necessary, update beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, bank accounts and insurance policies.
Take the time to review these tactics for your personal situation. Checking these items off your list can help you start 2017 on the right foot and may make a significant difference for your financial future.
Scott D. Serfass, CFP®, CRPC®, CDFA™, CLU®, ChFC® is a financial advisor and senior partner of Serfass, Phillips & Associates, a financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. His team specializes in helping people retire confidently and develop a plan to effectively share wealth across multiple generations. Throughout his career, he has witnessed many families continue to grow despite global and economic turmoil. This experience and research paved the way for his book, Family Success.