If your inbox is anything like mine, every January it fills with a myriad of New Year checklists shared by everyone from the trainer at your local gym to your favorite health and wellness blogger. Indeed, January is the perfect time to check-in on your mental and physical health—and your financial health is no exception! However, the standard checklist surrounding budgeting, debt management, and saving may need a little re-vamp. Of course, these components are all incredibly important in building and maintaining financial wellness, but what may be missing from your list as you roll up your sleeves for some financial planning in the New Year?
- Check-in on your net worth. The New Year is the perfect time to put a stake in the ground to measure where your net worth moves from there. Try pulling up an excel spreadsheet and itemizing all your assets as of January 1st to the dollar (if possible). Then, do the same for your liabilities. Once you net these numbers, where are you left? Is your net worth where you thought it would be when you set your goals last January? Or, if this is your first year measuring your net worth closely, use this spreadsheet as a starting point; where would you like this number to be come January 2022? Once next year rolls around, create a new tab in the spreadsheet and run the numbers again. Soon enough, you will have a catalogue over multiple years to help you understand how your net worth has changed. This exercise not only ensures you have a pulse on how your assets are growing (or shrinking), it also allows you to revisit lingering accounts which should be consolidated and rebalanced alongside your other investments (like that 401(k) from your prior employer). And if you get stuck gathering account values or creating your net worth goal for 2021, be sure to enlist the help of your financial planner!
- Draft your tax return early. Not only will your CPA thank you profusely, drafting your return early also allows for additional planning opportunities well before the deadline. The earlier you can get a draft version of your return to your financial planner, the sooner they can review it and make recommendations on what type of retirement contributions (IRA, Roth, SEP) to make, if you haven’t already. Drafting your return early also gives you time to save and plan for any remaining tax due come April 15th. Or, if you have over withheld significantly, you can jump on tweaking your tax withholdings at your employer to avoid over withholding again in the year ahead.
- Request your annual credit report. Every year you are entitled to a free credit report with each of the three credit bureaus. Pulling each report in the beginning of the year allows you to plan thoughtfully; if you have big goals to finance in the year ahead (like buying a car or becoming a homeowner), you will want to make sure your credit is in good standing. Credit reports also allow you to catch errors in credit balances or your personal information. Arguably most importantly, running your credit report also guard you against the damages of identity theft. It will be clear to see if lines of credit have been opened under your name that you did not authorize. Catching this early ensures your credit does not suffer damage that could take years to undo.
If you are not sure where to begin when it comes to building (and tackling) your full personal financial checklist this year, start by managing your household cash flow. Be sure to check out Maria’s blog post on good practices for managing your household cash flow for inspiration!
“I believe in fostering a relationship with your personal finances. Once you begin to understand what deeply matters to you, the way you put your dollars to use becomes an expression of those values. When you can orient yourself to view your spending as a reflection of who you are, you’re able to exercise control over how your money moves; there is great power in that.”