When spring is in the air, it’s time to put away those winter sweaters and pull out your summery shorts. It’s also a great time to clean your financial house, casting aside old habits and starting new ones. As flowers begin to bloom and birds return to their nests, give yourself a fresh financial start, too.
Here are nine ways to clear the cobwebs from your wallet and get your financial plan neat and tidy for 2020.
- Review your spending, create a budget and set up automated savings
If you don’t have emergency savings, you’re not alone: Nearly 60% of Americans don’t have enough money to cover a $500 emergency, according to a Bankrate survey. Increasingly, workplaces are helping people to contribute to an emergency fund alongside retirement plans like 401(k) accounts, and if that option is unavailable, individuals can use direct deposit to set aside emergency funds.
- Throw away your debt
Debt is like that clutter in the closet that’s taking up space you need for something else, including reaching goals like buying a new home. Just as you’d go through your closet, start out by assessing the debt you already have. While you may not be able to pay everything off, with some discipline you can make real changes.
- Perform your own self-evaluation to keep your career growing
Take stock of where you are at work, including your salary. Check the salary range for your job, know what you’re worth and create a negotiation plan. If 2020 is the year you need to take a career break to take care of your family, think about how to maintain your skills through volunteering or continued learning while you take time off from paid work.
- Spruce up retirement plan contributions
If you began the year with a raise, a good bonus or even got a great tax return, you likely have already begun planning a summer vacation, started looking at new cars or making other plans. Consider setting some of that aside for the future by adding to your workplace account or in an individual retirement account.
- Review your tax withholding
If you got a big tax refund in 2019, it likely feels like a bonus. But it really means you were paying more than you should have last year, giving Uncle Sam money that you could have put to work for your own needs. Set up withholding so that you get the most out of your paycheck through the year without owning any money at tax time in 2021.
- Dust off your estate plans
Doublecheck your list of beneficiaries to see if anything has changed in the last year. A change in any relationship, like getting married, will likely prompt an immediate change. Also consider whether any life changes would impact elements of an estate plan, including any power of attorney documents.
- Review insurance needs
Spring is a great time to consider whether any life changes, like having a newborn or getting married, create a need for financial protection. If someone depends on your income for any number of reasons, it’s worth considering whether life insurance will work for you. It’s also a great time to review homeowners or rental insurance policies as well.
- Put a new shine on your financial plan (with an adviser)
Whether it’s an accountant for tax planning or a financial adviser for investment and insurance advice, it’s important to find a professional who can help you review your accounts and provide recommendations on how to best reach your financial goals. In current volatile markets, for example, it’s important to know what’s happened in your portfolio and to use any investment losses to reduce capital gains taxes.
- Sow the seeds of your financial future
Begin to think about financial goals for the rest of the year and beyond — what seeds can you plant today to reap the rewards you seek? Focus on what you want for yourself and your family, with a near-term budget and some long-term ideas, including saving for retirement. Do you want to go on a big family vacation this summer? In retirement, do you want to live in an urban area and volunteer? Do you want to climb mountains?
As you shake the dust off your financial plan and imagine your future, cleaning house can help you understand how much it will cost and start thinking about ways to keep you finances in order throughout the year ahead. The sky’s your limit.