Here's to a new year! Let's shake off 2016 and make 2017 a year of real financial breakthrough!
Another New Year, another opportunity for endless resolutions, good intentions and high aspirations. We’re big fans of goal setting at Trilogy, so it’s no surprise that this time of year gives a little extra spring in our step. But you don’t have to talk about setting resolutions for long before that drag of a follow-up thought comes quickly behind: but what if I fail? Yes, we’ve all abandoned gym memberships in March, started eating sugar again. Stopped our five minutes of gratitude everyday. We’ve all hit the proverbial wall. And for many people, this resolution fatigue is most felt in their finances.
Started a budget… stopped keeping track.
Decided to save more spend less… bought a flat screen TV.
Focused on paying more attention to money… never balanced the checkbook.
So how best to shake the 2016 dust off and make 2017 a year of real financial breakthrough? I think this is such an important question. With so much change around us, in Washington, in the financial markets, in economics… even the weather seems a little unreliable this year, there’s no better time to take control where we can. Here’s 5 ways you can take the wheel and steer your future across the next hill and put 2017 in the record books.
- Get all your financial information in one place. This is great because it’s a resolution that doesn’t require ongoing effort. You do it once, and barring you opening up another credit card (don’t!) it’s setup and ready to go. There are a variety of free online services which provide basic tools for this, but there are also some power platforms with great forecasting and decision-making tools which are only available through a financial advisor.
- Measure twice, cut once. This old carpenter’s rule I learned from my grandfather applies to finance too. A lot of big money mistakes are made when we’re emotional. Emotions and money don’t make good bedfellows. So, when presented with ANY financial decision this year over say… $500 (you pick the right number for you), you’ll commit to getting informed of the pros and cons before pulling the trigger.
- Save your Refund. This one seems small, but for many households it’s a big one. Lots of Americans are giving the U.S government a loan of hundreds of dollars every month all to get it back (with no interest) when they file their taxes the following year. This year commit to two easy steps: (1) Save your refund. Put it toward a credit card, or put it in an investment or put it in your Roth IRA, just save it. (2) Adjust your W-4 for the remainder of 2017 so that you stop overpaying. A tax professional can help you with this or many employers will accept a firm percentage for how much they take out of your check. If you paid 17% of your gross income in federal taxes last year and you intend to make the same amount of money this year, you can tell your HR department to take out exactly 17% of each paycheck moving forward. Then SAVE the difference.
- Reclarify your goals. This one’s another one-and-done. If you're married sit down with your spouse, or if you manage your finances individually, that’s great too. Answer these questions:
- What does financial success look like in 5 years? (Be reasonable.)
- What does it financial success look like in 10 years? (Be hopeful.)
- What does financial success look like in 25 years? (Be aggressive.)
The longer the time horizon, the greater chance you have to reach your goals, so you should dream big on the ones way out into the future. Having clear intermediate and long-term objectives can help you clarify your actions by measuring against those goals. Remember there’s only 100 pennies in a dollar, so if you spend it in the NOW you won’t have it for the LATER.
- Hire a coach. We know. We’re financial advisors so you expect us to say this. But seriously, finances are one of the hardest areas to stay focused because it’s so emotional and there’s so many variables. Financial consumers need an objective guide to help the ignore the distractions and keep moving forward. This is different than an investment manager – this person just helps you invest the money you’ve already got. A financial coach or planner helps to measure the day-to-day decisions you make against your preferred future, and that can make all the difference.
What? No fancy industry jargon? No decimal points or ratios or tricky stock tips? Nope, nope and nope. That’s not our deal and it shouldn’t be yours either. Behavioral economics has shown us that in many cases the difference between financial success and failure has so much more to do with what happens on our Saturday trips to the mall than what’s happening with the S&P 500. This kind of advice will never make it on CNBC, and we’re ok with that because your future is too important to risk on gambling. As we say at Trilogy, we’re here to help you advance your tomorrows… one decision at a time.