Career Girl’s Year-End Financial Goal-Setting Checklist
According to a Fidelity® study on New Year’s resolutions, almost half of Americans are setting some kind of financial goal this year. If you are one of those who are hoping that 2014 will be the Year of Financial Security, I suggest a quick review of 2013 as a starting point. Ask yourself 4 questions to get started:
1. How much have you saved? Before you start on a mission to save more money next year, take a look at how you did over the past year. Are you better off this year than last? Could you have saved more money? Were your expectations of how much you could save realistic? Don’t let a small balance in your savings account discourage you from continuing your efforts. Make saving automatic by scheduling a recurring transfer on payday so you never miss the money. If you don’t yet have 6 months of your expenses tucked away in a savings account, that’s a good goal to start with.
2. How is your 401k or IRA performing? If you haven’t checked on your retirement account lately, this is a good time to log in and update your asset allocation. If nothing else, you should make sure you’re rebalancing your investments to account for changes in the stock market. But you should also make changes to your allocation as you approach retirement – someone who only has 5 years until retirement will have a lot more of their assets invested in bond and fixed income funds versus a Career Girl who has 30 years to go. You work hard for this money, make sure it’s working hard for you!
3. Did you reduce debt? Raise your hand if your financial resolution includes reducing or eliminating debt. Extenuating circumstances aside, if your total amount of debt increased or stayed the same in 2013, then it’s time to take a look at how you are going to make that number go down for the coming year. The first step in eliminating credit card debt is to stop using credit cards, so start thinking now about how you will shift your spending to cash only while you tackle your debt. Then make a plan and stick with it.
4. Has your financial outlook changed? Perhaps 2013 was a year of change for you – I know it was for me, big time! My whole life situation changed and therefore my financial status and goals have changed. As you prepare your plans for 2014, cover these questions to set you up for financial success in the coming year:
- What are your greatest concerns? What keeps you up at night about your life and money? It might be something totally different from last year. This will affect your financial goals.
- Is there specific advice you need around your money? Perhaps you received a promotion and have a lot more money to throw around so you finally need investing advice. Or maybe now you’re caring for a relative – does that affect your taxes? Consider seeking out a professional to help you with any big changes you’ve encountered.
- Have your goals changed? Did you get married, have a baby, move to a new city, decide to go back to grad school? All these will affect your long-term goals, obviously. Hopefully you’ve already examined how these changes affect your finances, but if not, now is the time to take a look and make any changes needed.
- Do you need to revise your budget? If you did have any major life events in 2013, or if you’re setting a “stretch goal” for yourself for 2014, you probably need to revise your budget. Take a look at those expenditures that have become routine such as stops at Starbucks or taking a cab home from work and decide whether you need to reconsider those activities. For me, I’m planning a tropical vacation in March and in order to afford it, I’ll be cutting way back on my happy hour networking meetings and instead scheduling much less expensive coffee meetings. That will also help me with my goal of feeling trim in my bikini on the beach!
Goal-setting for the New Year can be overwhelming. Make sure you give yourself some time and head space so that you are able to mindfully set goals that are realistic, achievable and motivational! Happy New Year, Career Girls!