If you were to think back to December 31, 2019, you may recall making some ambitious goals for the new year (and decade). With 2020 having been anything but predictable, you wouldn’t be alone if your resolutions — financial or otherwise — have not gone according to plan.
Luckily there’s still time to get back on track and end the year on the right foot. Here are four financial steps to take to make the most of what’s left of 2020 and set the stage for a more financially sound 2021.
REPURPOSE YOUR SAVINGS
While everyone’s financial situation has been impacted differently this year, for many people, staying home has meant saving more. According to Northwestern Mutual’s 2020 Planning and Progress Study, U.S. adults have, on average, seen a 10 percent increase in their personal savings from 2019.
How to do it: If you’ve been able to save some money this year, whether that be from eating more meals at home or not taking that planned vacation, calculate the amount you would have spent on those activities and make a plan for that money.
Depending on your situation, you might choose to pay down debt, add to your emergency fund, retirement savings, your kids’ college account or even treat yourself to a splurge. By allocating the money you saved this year for a specific purpose, rather than just putting it toward your everyday bills, you’ll be motivated to stay on track with your money goals as you head into 2021.
REVISE YOUR BUDGET
This has been the year of finding alternatives for our usual activities. And while we all want things to go back to the way they were, you may have found that some of your replacements have worked out better than expected. Perhaps your streaming services have filled the void of your regular trips to the movies, or your home exercise routine has been preferable to the gym. In addition, your budget may need a refresh as your spending may have shifted. For instance you may have lower commuting costs that have been replaced by larger utility bills, or a smaller clothing budget has led to a greater investment in home improvements.
How to do it: Pull up your recent bank and credit card statements to get a sense of how your spending has changed over the course of the year. Then, use that insight to create an updated budget that reflects where your money is actually going. This way, when 2021 rolls around, your budget will be that much closer to where it needs to be.
- CHECK IN WITH YOUR ADVISOR
In addition to revising your day-to-day budget, now is also a good time to revisit your long-term financial plan, especially if you’re part of the 71 percent of Americans who feel their financial planning could use some improvement.
How to do it: Gather all your financial documents, including your retirement and college savings accounts, and set up some time to speak with your financial advisor. He or she can help you get a clear picture of where you stand and if any adjustments need to be made.
You might also want to discuss if any of your documents need to be updated, such as your insurance policies or estate plan. This is especially important if you’re planning a big life event in 2021, such as growing your family.
MAKE A PLAN TO AVOID HOLIDAY DEBT
While opening presents in December is fun, the feeling can quickly disappear when the credit card bill lands with a thud in January — just take it from the 98 million Americans who said they overspent during the holidays last year.
How to do it: While the costs of holiday parties and travel are likely to be pared down this year, it can still be easy to overspend without a plan. First, determine whom you need to buy gifts for — you may find your list is smaller this year due to separate and/or virtual celebrations. Then, determine an amount to spend that will comfortably allow you to pay off your bill in full and on time. By planning out your shopping and sticking to a budget, you’ll start 2021 free of holiday debt and ready for whatever the new year brings.