As a new year begins it is common for people to create resolutions for the new year, especially around financial planning. The new year is a great time to set financial goals and get yourself on the right track for the year. However, it is important that your financial goals are all encompassing and account for saving, investing, retirement planning, and debt elimination. While each person?s financial plans will be unique to their current and desired situation, any financial plan should incorporate the following elements in some capacity.
1. Create an Emergency Fund
An emergency fund is a pool of easily accessible money that covers your monthly expenses for 3-6 months. With our economy in a shaky recovery from a deep recession, no job is completely safe. This fund is there for more than just a rainy day but more for a hurricane that may last awhile.
2. Eliminate, pay down, and prevent debt
This task is obviously easier said than done. Between student loans, credit cards, and car loans debt is easy to accumulate but hard to eliminate. Set a plan to consistently make significant payments to your debt obligations. Paying down high interest debt is better than any investment.Most importantly, when possible, USE CASH.
3. Contribute to your retirement accounts
Most individuals are offered some form or retirement plan through their employer, likely a 401k or 403b. You can set up contributions to these retirement accounts through your Human Resources or Finance department. Some companies match employee contributions up to a certain percent or contribute regardless of employee contributions. Be sure to take full advantage of either type of contributions. Contributions to these plans under the traditional format allows all contributions to be deducted from your taxable income at the end of the year decreasing your tax bill to Uncle Sam. However, taxes are taken out when you receive money from the accounts but that won?t be until your at least 59 1/2. Although this may seem far away you are never to young to think about retirement. The best person to pay the older you is the young you.
After you?ve done the tasks above remaining money should be deposited into an investment account. Picking investments can be somewhat scary and there is risk involved but the reward is a higher return on your money than any savings account can provide. I won?t give any specific investment advice here but Warren Buffett and several other investing gurus recommend that the average investor invest in a mutual fund or an exchange traded fund (ETF) that?s tracks the total market. An ETF is a collection of stocks combined in a fund that can be purchased in shares like an individual stock. Investing in a mutual fund or ETF that tracks the entire stock market is essentially a bet that the market as a whole will go up over time.
There is plenty more than can be added to any financial plan. starting with the basics here will help establish a solid foundation that you can build on over time.
What are your financial goals for the year? What do you suggest for anybody who wants to get their money right?
Justin Peters is co-founder of How To Make It Moments (http://www.howtomakeitmoments.com), a blog dedicated to providing resources to aspiring entrepreneurs and profiling current entrepreneurs. How To Make It Moments include real life experiences from entrepreneurs and young professionals. Justin is located in Washington, DC.
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