Goodbye, 2020. It was a rollercoaster of a year that impacted so many parts of our lives. It took a lot out of us, but there were also some silver linings: more time with our immediate families, finding treasured spots near home that we may have overlooked in the past, and a decrease in our daily expenses — which helped many of us save more money.
As we look toward better times in 2021, you may be resolving to be more deliberate with your finances — and perhaps make good use of the money you didn’t spend over the past year. Here are five new year’s financial resolutions to help get you on the right financial footing for 2021.
1. MAKE A PLAN FOR YOUR MONEY
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s how important it is to have a financial plan for the good times and the not-so-good times. A financial plan can help you identify what’s important to you in life and show you how to get there financially.
Financial Resolution To-do: If you have a financial plan, revisit your dreams and dedicate resources to start making them a reality. Perhaps you want to finally take that big family trip in 2021. Maybe you’re looking to boost your retirement savings so that you can dream a little bigger about your golden years. Whatever is important to you, resolve to update your financial plan so it puts you on the path to get there.
If you don’t have a financial plan, resolve to create one in 2021. A plan can help you reach your goals while also preparing you for things that could go wrong along the way.
2. SAVE MORE, A LITTLE AT A TIME
Even if you have some extra money in your budget now, life will eventually go back to normal. And when you get there, continuing some of the financial habits you've built during the pandemic can help you stay in financial shape. Sure, you’re going to take vacations again. But there may be other expenses you find you don’t miss.
Financial Resolution To-do: As you get back to a more normal life, be more deliberate about what you spend money on, which will leave more for the things that are important to you. For future goals, automate your savings (if you don't already), and up the amount a little each year, like 1 percent at a time. You could up it by 1 percent now, and then by another 1 percent on your birthday if you, say, get a raise later in the year. Then keep doing that year after year until you’re saving about 20 percent of what you make.
3. BE MORE TAX EFFICIENT
Even if you don’t itemize your deductions anymore, there are still ways you can be strategic about your taxes — for both now and the future.
Financial Resolution To-do: There are many strategies you can look into to be more tax efficient overall, so it’s worth doing a deeper dive to see where you’re potentially missing out. For instance, how you save for retirement can make a big difference in what you’ll owe in taxes today and in retirement. There are also tax-friendly accounts that can help you with other goals like saving for future college costs or covering health care expenses. A financial advisor can show you different strategies for your financial plan that can simultaneously help you work toward your goals while keeping tax efficiency in mind.
4. BE WISE WITH YOUR DEBT
Not all debt is bad. Good debt, like mortgages, can ultimately help you grow your net worth or reach important personal goals. Bad debt, on the other hand, usually has a high interest rate and doesn’t provide much of a benefit to your financial situation. Whether you’re repaying credit cards or taking on a mortgage, resolve to be strategic about your debt in 2021.
Financial Resolution To-do: Have a plan when it comes to taking on debt or paying it down. For example, mortgages are at historically low rates. And with rising home values, 2021 might be a great year to trade up to your dream home — or refinance your existing mortgage to borrow some extra and get started on that big home renovation you’ve been thinking about. Provided the new payment works within your budget, this can be a way to use debt to your advantage and turn your home into a place where your family will make wonderful memories.
But if you have credit card debt, resolve to use a strategy to start paying it down. Strategies like the debt avalanche method (paying down the highest-interest-rate debt first) or the snowball method (paying off the lowest balances first) can often help you get out from under your debt more quickly.
5. ENJOY YOUR MONEY
Most of us could probably use a little pick-me-up after the year we just had. While financial resolutions often center on getting out of debt or saving more, don’t overlook enjoying your money.
Financial Resolution To-do: Instead of resolving just to get out of debt, resolve to make smarter money decisions that will leave you with enough for a little self-pampering. Sure, take-out from a nice restaurant probably isn’t in the cards every day. But set aside money in your budget to treat yourself now and then.