By Jenna Rogers, MS, CFP®, AAMS®, AWMA®
New year, new you, right? Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Between getting back to the gym, eating better, getting organized and sleeping 8 hours, one of the top New Year's resolutions is to spend less and save more. In fact, a Financial New Year Resolutions study conducted by Fidelity Investments ranked "saving more" and "spending less" among the top three financial resolutions Americans are considering for 2018. But where should you begin? We’ve compiled a list of top financial to-do's in January so you can start the New Year on the best financial path possible.
- Do an annual financial check-Up. Review last year's budget and compare it with what you actually spent during the year. Look for categories that stand out, especially where you may have overspent. Did you meet your goals last year? This insight will be helpful as you map out your budget for the New Year, and it will make you aware of the areas where you should be more mindful.
- Book flights for travel. Do you already know where you will visit in 2018? If so, sign up for flight alerts on sites like Kayak.com or SkyScanner with your ideal travel dates and location. If prices drop, you will receive an email and be able to book instantly.
- Increase your 401(k) contribution. As we've already mentioned, one of the top New Year's resolutions is “to save more.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t magically happen. You have to actually request an increase to your contribution rate. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you are contributing at least 10% of your earnings to your retirement plan.
- File your FAFSA. If you are the parent of a student, filing the annual FAFSA is vital for getting the best financial aid package for your child in the coming school year. Much of the information comes from the prior year's tax return, so as tax documents trickle in, be sure to set them aside to aide in the FAFSA application.
- Pay your estimated taxes. The deadline for paying estimated taxes for the 4th quarter of 2017 is January 16th. If you are self-employed or don’t have taxes withheld from your earnings, be sure to make the payment in time.
Now that your financial to-do’s are in order, you are ready to head into the New Year confident and prepared. Cheers to a prosperous 2018!