Now that 2015 is upon us, you may be thinking about making some New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you’ll decide to take up a musical instrument, or hit the gym more often, or even learn a new language. All these are worthy goals, of course — but you could also gain some key benefits by working to achieve some financial resolutions.
Here are a few to consider:
Fill “gaps” in your investment portfolio. From time to time, you — or possibly your financial advisor, if you work with one — might identify “gaps” in your investment portfolio. For example, you might find that you are making insufficient progress on a key goal, such as saving for a child’s college education. Or you might discover that you need to place additional resources in a particular asset class to achieve proper diversification, which can help reduce the impact of market volatility on your portfolio. (Keep in mind, though, that diversification by itself can’t guarantee profits or protect against loss.) So put “filling portfolio gaps” high on your list of New Year’s financial resolutions.
Boost your 401(k) contributions. If your salary has gone up with the new year, consider boosting your contributions to your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan. You may not be able to afford to contribute the maximum annual amount — which in 2015 is $18,000, or $24,000 if you’re 50 or older — but if you increase your contributions every year, you can greatly speed your progress toward your retirement savings goals. You can put this New Year’s resolution into effect by contacting your human resources or benefits department as soon as you get back to work in 2015.
Eliminate “unhealthy” investment habits. As part of your general New Year’s resolutions, you may have decided to cut back on “carbs” and sugar-laced soft drinks, with the expectation that these moves could help your overall health. But you can also make “unhealthy” financial moves, such as chasing after “hot” stocks (which may already have cooled off by the time you find them) or selling quality investments just because their price has temporarily dropped. Strive to focus more intently on your long-term investment strategy, as opposed to reacting to short-term stimuli.
Review your estate strategy. During any given year, you might experience major changes in your life — marriage (or remarriage), new child, new home, etc. — and these changes will have profound effects on your estate plans. But whether or not you encountered any of these events in 2014, it’s a good idea to look over your estate planning documents* — such as a will, living trust, power of attorney and so forth — to make sure they are still current with your wishes. It’s especially important to update beneficiary designations on your insurance policies and retirement accounts so that they are aligned with the wishes you have expressed in your will. And if you haven’t drawn up your estate plans* yet, make a New Year’s resolution to do so in 2015 — because it’s never too soon to take the steps necessary to protect your loved ones in the future.
Unlike some New Year’s resolutions, these financial ones won’t require a big shift in your lifestyle. But if you can stick to them, they can make a big difference in your life.