8 Helpful Tips to Start Your Financial Year off Right

In early 2021, I published the article below to help others get their year off to a good financial start.  Since the information below still applies, I’ve decided to reshare with minor updates for 2022 tax laws.  Plus, if you make it to the end of this article, I’ve shared some of my personal milestones and goals for the year.

Many people start the New Year with a list of resolutions that, let’s be honest, they probably aren’t going to keep. As you may have guessed, I am not here to talk to you about going to the gym more or picking up a new hobby.  Instead, I would like to present some easy financial tips to turn into good habits and get you off to the right start in 2022.  Having a well-thought-out plan can pay dividends (pun intended) in 2022 and beyond.

  1. Set Short-Term Financial Goals for the New Year
  • Many of us have longer-term goals (like retirement or buying a vacation home), but it is also important to set shorter-term goals. These goals can include accelerating payments on a mortgage, paying down student debt, saving for a house down payment, funding a vacation, or buying a new car.
  1. Set Automatic 401(k) Contributions from Each Paycheck
  • If you recently received a raise, it might be a good idea to increase your contribution rate and save at least a part of your pay increase while following the IRS’s maximum contribution limits.
  • Revisit whether your contributions are made on a pre-tax (traditional 401(k)) or after-tax (Roth 401(k)) basis and consult with your advisor to see what is best for you.
  • Make sure your investment election aligns with your overall portfolio strategy. While it may make sense to sometimes think of your 401(k) as a stand-alone “silo,” often, it’s important to think of it in conjunction with your other accounts.
  1. Maximize Your Roth IRA Contributions Before Tax Filing
  • For some people (depending on income level – see point b below), a Roth IRA contribution can be made in addition to a work 401(k).  These contributions are made with after-tax money and will grow permanently tax-free as long as you meet certain rules.  Note that you have until April 15th of 2022, to make your 2021 contributions.
  • If your income is over a certain threshold ($129,000 if you’re single and $204,000 if you’re married and file jointly), you cannot contribute directly to your Roth IRA. However, there are workarounds to maximize tax-free growth, and you should consult your SWP advisor and/or CPA for the best solutions.
  1. Review Your Portfolio Asset Allocation
  • 2021 has been another strong year for equities, and you may find that you have more stock market exposure than you intended. One of the hardest things to do when investing is to sell equities while the market is rising.  But if your allocation strategy was intentional (our clients’ plans certainly are), you should generally maintain the discipline of sticking with the plan. In years like this, that may mean taking chips off the table and reallocating investment gains towards more conservative assets.
  • The most common resistance we see to selling stocks is that clients don’t want to pay capital gains tax. This makes sense, but we also don’t want to “let the tax tail wag the dog.”  After all, any tax you pay is just a fraction of the gains that you’ve earned.
  1. Make Sure Your Beneficiaries are Set Up Properly on Your Retirement Accounts
  • In most cases, naming your spouse as the primary beneficiary makes the most sense.
  • If you aren’t married, we typically recommend naming beneficiaries (children, siblings, etc.) outright to ensure that they can take the inherited distributions over an extended period of time. But it’s a complicated topic; my colleague, Jill Kaz, wrote the article It’s Time to Review Your Beneficiary Designations that may be helpful.
  1. Adjust Automatic Savings to Align with Salary Changes
  • While you can (and should) celebrate any salary increases and/or year-end bonuses, it’s also smart to increase your savings rates (set a goal to do so, as discussed in number one above). Failure to do so results in not making progress towards increasing your savings and portfolio.
  1. Create (or Revisit) a Net Worth Statement
  • Keeping your net worth statement updated is key. If you don’t have one, it is time to create one. A net worth statement is a “financial snapshot” that lists your current assets (what you own) and your current liabilities (what you owe).  You then deduct your liabilities from your assets to determine your net worth.
  • Revisiting your net worth statement at the beginning of each year can help monitor forward progress over time. If the results aren’t what you hoped for, it may be time to sit down and develop a plan for future growth.
  1. Review Your Estate Planning and Documents
  • Make sure all of your accounts are correctly titled. Are they named in your trust?  If you don’t have a trust, do you have a TOD (Transfer on Death) designation applied to your account(s)?  These easy adjustments can help your loved ones avoid probate court in the event of your death.
  • If it’s been more than a few years since you reviewed your estate plan, consider calling your attorney to confirm your plan is up to date with any new laws and regulations.
  • If you don’t have an estate plan, there’s no better time to start than now. While working with an attorney to draft documents may not be “fun,” it’s an excellent way to ensure that all of your assets will be distributed according to your wishes and that someone can step into your shoes if you are unable to manage your affairs.

Taking the time to review these eight items is the best way to start your year off right financially.  Please contact your team at SWP if you would like to discuss any of the items above.

And now for some of my personal milestones and goals:

  • I’m looking forward to getting married to my Fiancée, Emily, in May. She’s done an amazing job with wedding planning, and I need to finalize the details for our honeymoon.  This should be an easy (and exciting) thing to knock off the list.
  • Since I entered the workforce, I’ve always tried to increase my savings year over year. I take great pride in working hard to achieve this goal.
  • I’d like to do a better job of giving back to the community. While I feel like I do a great job of making financial donations, I’d like to spend more of my time helping others in need.
  • I want to start taking strides to earn my pilot’s license. Yes, you read the right! This has been a bucket list item for years, but I’ve never really sat down and developed a plan to make it happen.
  • This year I’d like to witness an Illinois Men’s Basketball Championship, White Sox World Series, or Chicago Bears Super Bowl (2022 season, looking to 2023). While this may be out of my control, it’s still my goal to see… regardless of how far-fetched it may be.

I’m hoping in this new year I will be able to see these milestones through.  On behalf of the entire SWP team, we wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.


Disclosure:

This article contains general information that is not suitable for everyone. The information contained herein should not be constructed as personalized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Reading or utilizing this information does not create an advisory relationship. An advisory relationship can be established only after the following two events have been completed (1) our thorough review with you of all the relevant facts pertaining to a potential engagement; and (2) the execution of a Client Advisory Agreement. There is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed in this article will come to pass.  Investing in the stock market involves gains and losses and may not be suitable for all investors. Information presented herein is subject to change without notice and should not be considered as a solicitation to buy or sell any security.

Strategic Wealth Partners (‘SWP’) is an SEC registered investment advisor with its principal place of business in the State of Illinois. The brochure is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to its investment advisory services, views on the market, and investment philosophy. Any subsequent, direct communication by SWP with a prospective client shall be conducted by a representative that is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state where the prospective client resides. For information pertaining to the registration status of SWP, please contact SWP or refer to the Investment Advisor Public Disclosure website (www.adviserinfo.sec.gov).

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