What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?

Jan 6, 2020

“Save more and spend less” has been one of the top five New Year’s resolutions every year. So, it’s a safe bet one of yours for 2020 will be financial-related. Unfortunately, according to the research, only about 8 percent of those setting New Year’s resolutions are successful. Make this your year to beat the odds!

If you’re one of the 92 percent that failed to meet your financial goals this year, don’t despair. The first thing to do is to determine what caused you to “miss the mark.” Then, use that newfound wisdom to develop a financial strategy that will keep you on track for 2020. Don’t procrastinate - get started January 1st. Here are a few ideas for creating your plan of attack.

Save Smart

Below are four of the most common “high priority” financial goals. If you utilize the entire year to save monthly for these objectives, you can avoid year-end financial stress as well as save on next year’s taxes.

  • IRA Contributions. Don’t wait until tax time next year to come up with $6,000 ($7,000 for individuals age 50+) to maximize your 2020 IRA contribution. Instead, start saving this January. Systematically move $500 (or $583.33) monthly from your checking account into your Traditional or Roth IRA to achieve the max by year-end.

  • College Saving. Want a 20% return on your investment? Begin contributing $416.66 per month into your child/grandchild’s Indiana 529 college savings plan. As an Indiana resident, you will receive a state tax credit equal to 20% of your 529 contribution, up to a maximum credit of $1,000 (for a $5,000 contribution). Is $416.66 per month too steep? If you contribute a smaller amount, you will still get 20 percent of your 2020 contribution as a tax credit. You will reap the benefit on your 2020 tax return, when you deduct the appropriate credit amount from your state tax liability.

  • Charitable Gifting. Making a gift to your favorite charity(s) can reduce your income tax if you itemize deductions. For ease of management, you may want to consider establishing a charitable gift account with a financial institution, such as Schwab or Fidelity. Funding the account with appreciated securities, e.g. individual stocks or mutual funds, will allow you to avoid a capital gains tax, even if you don’t itemize deductions. You can direct funds from this charitable gift account to your chosen charities. Whenever you make a deposit to the charitable gift account (via cash or appreciated securities), that amount can be included on Schedule A for those itemizing deductions.

  • Holiday Shopping and Entertainment Budget. In January, revisit your credit card bills and store receipts. Calculate how much you spent on family, friends, and entertainment over the holidays in 2019 and divide the total amount by twelve. This is the amount you’ll need to deposit each month into a separate savings account to cover 2020’s holiday expenses.

Find Ways to Reduce Expenses

Now is a great time to create a list of all your 2019 expenditures and look for ways to reduce your monthly bills. Here are a few places to start.

  • Reassess Homeowner’s Insurance. Do you know the deductible on your homeowner’s insurance policy? By increasing it, you can potentially save on premium costs. Call your insurance agent every year to make sure your coverage is still appropriate. And, ask your agent to also shop the premium!

  • Review Mortgage Terms. Compare your interest rate with today’s rates for the same type of mortgage. If yours is higher, contact your mortgage professional to discuss whether refinancing your loan would be beneficial. You may also want to restructure the terms of your mortgage to fit your current financial goals. Don’t have a mortgage professional in mind? Your financial advisor may be able to provide a referral.

  • Got Cable? If you still have cable, it’s likely that your monthly bill has increased since your contract went into effect. Determine how much TV you really watch and what channels/shows you enjoy. There are a number of alternatives to cable today - Netflix, hulu, Disney+, Amazon, or other streaming services - that might be sufficient. Contact your cable company to see if there is a lower-priced plan that’s more suitable for your viewing needs.

Summary

When it comes to funding your financial goals, procrastination is your nemesis. Take control this January by evaluating your 2019 expenses and establishing a monthly savings strategy. Your 2020 holiday season will be much more enjoyable and stress-free if your savings goals are on autopilot and unnecessary expenses reduced or even eliminated!

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