Financial Planning for the New Year: 5 Tips to Have Your Best Year Yet

Money.  Not a lot of people like to talk about it, and things can get awkward real fast if you do.  I am not one of those people.  I don’t mind at all.  In fact I love talking about it, sharing any tips I have and love to hear other people’s success stories and how they financially manage their households.  

In 2016 I celebrated my long term goal of paying off my student loans (woo hoo!).  Now it was time to sit down and look again at our money and make a new plan.  Doing this brought me back to when I first graduated and got my job.  I was looking at this paycheck and I had no idea what to do with it. I was so lucky to have my grandma sit down with me and set up my retirement plan, my student loan repayments and review my expenses, pros and cons of credit cards and living within your means. 

It reminded me of how many people I know that have and do struggle with money because they were never taught how to manage it.  While I am not a certified financial planner, I can say there are some basic things to start with to set you up for success.  Here are 5 things to do to have the best financial year of your life this year!

1. Estate Planning

You can’t take it with you (when you die- and we will all die), so where do you want it to go?  Many people think, I’m married, so my spouse will get it.   No.  Stop.  What if you both die?  Who will get your kids?  Who will get your money?  I contacted a local attorney, did most of the paperwork via email and met with him to sign; it took less than 30 minutes!  It was painless and so easy.  Do it.  Do it now.

2. Review Your Budget

If you don’t have one started, go here first. If you are working off one now, it’s time to review.  What is your take-home pay?  I bet it may have gone up since you last budgeted.  What are your expenses?  Ours are going up next year so we needed to update those.  It’s time to rework those numbers and write out an actual, accurate budget so you can see where your money is going. 

Look at everything.  How do you feel about this?  How do you want to feel?  Is there anything you want to change?  Now is the time to set some real goals and plan out how to make this happen.  Want to have less debt?  Refinance your home to a 15 year mortgage?  Add more to savings?  Time to move some money around or decrease your spending so you can make it happen!

Look at the next year, look at the next 2, 3 and 5 years and think about your future needs.  Will you need a new car?  How much will you be paying for child care? Will you have any major home repairs like a new roof or new windows?  Have you started a 529 account for your kiddo?  No matter what goals you have, you can’t reach any of them if you don’t know what you are working with. So sit down, write it out, make a plan and get going! 


3. Savings

This is hefty goal, but I think everyone needs an emergency savings. How much is very personal but finance experts recommend anywhere from 3-12 months of expenses. Yep, that could be thousands and thousands of dollars just sitting there in the bank, and you don’t touch it. Hopefully you never need it, but if your car breaks down, your furnace goes out or your kid needs an emergency appendectomy, you will have the money to write a check and not bat an eye.

4. Retirement

The bare minimum- make sure you are at least adding money that is matched by your employer. If your company will match up to 3%, then do that.  Once you check that off your list, look into increasing your retirement contribution to save around 15% of your income.  There are many ways to do this but if your income is within the guidelines, I would recommend opening a ROTH IRA.  


5. Give back.

One of the best things you can do for your family, your community and the world is to give back.  Some people like to donate 10% to their church, others a set amount of money each month to worthy causes.  Pick your passion- do you love providing food for hungry, housing for the homeless, support for the international refugee crisis, to save animals going extinct?  You can make a difference, and it is a great lesson for our children to care about more than ourselves.

What are YOUR best financial tips and tricks?


Megan, an Iowa native from West Branch, shares her home with husband Cody, their three kids (Charlie-8 Gwen-6 & Ben-2) and 2 dogs (Dottie- lab-basset mix & Ham-all basset). When she is not smooching on them she is trying to change lives as a social worker, taking walks around their Iowa City neighborhood or cruising in Rita her minivan looking to score deals at local thrift stores. Check our her finds on her Instagram page @megthethriftingqueen.


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