Happy New Year! Now that 2022 is a wrap, one of the best presents you can bestow on yourself and your loved ones is the gift of proper preparation for the rest of the year. Want to get a jump-start on it? Here are 10 financial best practices to energize your wealth management efforts.
Save Today for a Better Retirement Tomorrow
Are you maxing out pre-tax contributions to your company retirement plan? Taking full advantage of your and your spouse’s company retirement plans is an important, tax-advantaged way to save for retirement, especially if your employer matches some of your contributions with “extra” money. And, by the way, if you are 50 or older, you may be able to make additional “catch-up contributions” to your plan, to further accelerate your retirement-ready investing. 
Verify Your Valuables Are Still Covered
Most households have insurance: home, auto, life … maybe disability and/or umbrella. But when is the last time you checked to see if these policies remain right for you? Over time, it’s easy to end up with gaps or overlaps, like too much or not enough coverage, deductibles that warrant a fresh take, or beneficiaries who need to be added or removed. If you’ve not performed an insurance “audit” recently, there’s no time like the present to cross this one off your list.
Get a Grip on Your Debt Load
Investment returns will only take you so far if excessive debt is weighing you down. Prioritize paying down high-interest credit cards and similar high-cost debt first and at least meeting minimums on the rest. You may also want to revisit whether you still hold the best credit cards for your circumstances. Do the interest rates, incentives, protections, and other perks still reflect your needs? Ditto on that for your home loan.
Check Up on Your Credit Reports
Speaking of those credit cards, have you been periodically requesting your free annual credit report from each of the three primary credit reporting agencies? Be sure to use AnnualCreditReport.com for this purpose, as it’s the only federally authorized source for doing so. By staggering your requests – submitting to one agency every fourth month – you can keep an ongoing eye on your credit, which seems especially important in the wake of last summer’s Equifax breach.
Get a Bead on Your Budget
How much did you spend in 2022? How much do you intend to spend in the year ahead? After current spending, can you still afford to fund your future plans? Do you have enough set aside in a rainy day fund to cover the inevitable emergencies? These days, there are apps available to help you answer these important questions. Mint.com is one such popular app.
Get Ready for Tax Time
Preparing for tax season all year long can help you capture more tax-saving opportunities. Review your finances and consider whether any changes to your situation, like getting a raise or having a child go off to college, might affect your taxes. Be intentional about planning your charitable donations and tax-deferred investing for the year. Check in with your tax professional to be sure there aren’t any tax law changes you need to know about, and if your finances are complex, loop them in to determine if you’re taking the correct approach. The most beneficial tax strategies last year might not apply this year, or you may be able to begin using a new strategy now that wouldn’t have been helpful in the past.
Give Your Investments a Good Inspection
Where do you stand with your personal wealth? Have you got an investment strategy to see you through? Does your portfolio reflect your personal goals and risk tolerances? While investment management is a marathon of patient perspective rather than a short-sighted sprint of mad dashes, a new year makes this as good a time as any to review the terrain.
Ensure Your Estate Plans Are Current
Do you have wills and/or trusts in place for you and your loved ones? If so, when is the last time you took a look at them? Your family may have experienced births, deaths, marriages or divorces. Dependents may have matured. You may have acquired or sold business interests, and added new assets or let go of old ones. Your original intentions may have changed, or government regulations may have changed them for you. For all these reasons and more, it’s worth revisiting your estate plans annually.
Have a Look at Your Healthcare Directives
As healthcare becomes increasingly complex, advance directives (living wills) play an increasingly vital role in ensuring your healthcare wishes are met should you be unable to express them when the need arises. Don’t leave your loved ones unaware of and/or unable to act on your critical care or end-of-life preferences. If you don’t already have a strong living will in place, Aging with Dignity’s Five Wishes is one helpful place to learn more. 
Give Your Newly Adult Children the Gift of Continued Care
Have any of your children turned 18 recently? You may send them off to college or a career, assuming you can still be there for them should an emergency arise. Be forewarned! If you don’t have the legal paperwork in place, healthcare providers and others may be unable to respond to your requests or even discuss your adult child’s personal information with you. To remain involved in their healthcare interests, you’ll want to have a healthcare power of attorney, durable power of attorney and HIPAA authorization in place. It may also be prudent to establish education record release authorizations while you’re at it. 
Next Steps in the New Year
We get it. Life never stops. Don’t despair if you can’t get to all ten of these tidbits at once. Take on one each month, and you’ll still have a couple of months to spare before we’re ringing in 2024.
Better yet, don’t go it alone. Let us know if we can help you turn your financial planning jump-start into a mighty wealth management leap. It begins with an exploratory conversation.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
This material was prepared by Wendy J. Cook Communications, and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate and is intended merely for educational purposes, not as advice.