It’s a new year.
I was recently reading that one of the top ten new years resolutions is to get out of debt. It’s also one of the most frequently failed goals.
January brings with it new opportunities. A blank slate.
Here are 10 things I think you could consider doing this month that can have a big positive bottom line impact on your finances.
10 Crucial Financial Tasks for January that Lead to a Stellar 2013
Review and Rebalance Your Investment Allocations
One of the keys to a solid investment portfolio is diversification. As 2012 ebbed and flowed, the result is that your investment allocations likely adjusted. As such, go back and determine what percentage you want in each assest type and rebalance your portfolio. Remember, your asset allocation is your most important investing decision. Doing this task once or twice a year should be sufficient.
Start of Evaluate Your Current Financial Tracking Tools
There are a lot of good websites and software that can help you keep track of your finances. For budgeting, I’m now using a simple Excel worksheet. A few months ago, I started using Personal Capital (free web-based service) to track all my investments and account activity. If you currently don’t have any sort of financial software, you might find that it can help minimize the time needed to manage your finances.
If you’re already budgeting, then you can skip this one.
If you’re not currently keeping a budget, I’d say this is the most important tool that will help you get out of debt. Budgeting is a way to free up money that you never knew you had. If you think you need help budgeting, then check out my book The Secret to a Successful Budget.
Read a Book that Will Help You Grow in Your Spiritual Understanding About Money
I think we should be constantly challenging ourselves to increase in our stewardship. I recommend any of the following six books:
- Transforming Your Financial Diet by Craig Ford
- Neither Poverty nor Riches by Craig Blomberg
- The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns
- The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience by Ronald Sider
- Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller
- Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn
I’ve found the best way to invest is to set aside a set amount of money and invest it every month. This functions best with a direct deposit and automatic investing plan. This is commonly called dollar cost averaging. Most online investing brokerages will allow you to do that.
If you haven’t been in the habit of investing for retirement, then you could re-evaluate your budget to see if there is anything you can allocate to this category. If you have been investing regularly, you could look and see if what you are investing is appropriate to your faith and calling.
If you get lost in the investing world, then I suggest you pick up a copy of The Sound Mind Investing Handbook and even subscribe to the Sound Mind Investing Newsletter. I’ve been a satisfied subscriber for about four or five years. (I honestly can’t remember)
The start of a new year is a great time to ask: can I intentionally change something so that I’ll have more to give?
This might involve adjusting some numbers in your budget, but ask if there is any luxury you’d joyfully cut or give up so that you’ll have more to give. The more we grow and the more God financially blesses us, the more we should challenge ourselves to give.
Develop a Plan for Getting Out of Debt
Here’s a wise statement – people who want to get out of debt badly enough get out of debt. People who are sort-of-somewhat committed to getting out of debt don’t.
People who know what is involved in getting out of debt are successful. People without a plan don’t.
You’ve got three main options:
- Pay off the debt with the highest interest.
- Pay of the debt with the lowest balance.
- Pay of the debt with the most emotional payoff associated with it.
I bet if you threw a dart at any one of these three options, you’d probably pay off your debt quickly, regardless of which ‘strategy’ you picked.
Review your current insurance holdings.
If you can afford it, there are some types of insurance we should all have:
Health, house, vehicle, disability, and life insurance.
My personal preference is to carry high deductibles and use my emergency fund to cover any payments if/when necessary before reaching a bigger deductible.
If it’s been more than six months since you’ve shopped around for better rates, this could be the time.
Determine your financial focus point.
Think of your income as a funnel. Whatever water gets poured in the funnel is channeled to a certain area.
Where do any monthly excess, gifts, or bonuses need to be funneled? If you’re in debt, every extra penny you come across should be used towards debt payment. If you don’t have anything saved for retirement, then you could focus funds in that direction. If you’re in a healthy financial situation, then your funnel would flow into giving.
Know where you’ll spend extra dollars before you make those extra dollars. Otherwise, you’re materialistic self will probably jump in and remind you of something you ‘need’.
Identify a few ways you could live more simply and frugally.
Frugality is not a necessary evil we endure so that we can get financially healthy and break free of its restriction. Frugality is a Christian call to live moderately for the sake of others.
Where are the money leaks in your home? Is there a budget category which you could change and make adjustments?
Cut back, cut down, and I think you’ll enjoy liberation – not bondage – from that choice.
What are you doing in 2013 to help develop a healthy financial game plan?