The end of the year is always the best time to reflect and plan. I’d like to share several financial moves you should make before the new year in order to protect your wealth and hopefully grow your wealth in a risk-adjusted manner next year.
Those of us who invested in stocks, real estate, and many other asset classes except for oil should be feeling fortunate. But don’t forget that good times seldom last forever.
Never forget the Armageddon days of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the 2000 dotcom implosion, and the housing + financial meltdown that began in 2008. Those of you who haven’t been investing at all better get ready to deploy capital when chaos returns, or else inflation will eat your wealth alive.
If you just started investing in the past five years, lucky you! Don’t worry. Your beat down will happen eventually. But like every beat down, things always get better over time. Look at all of us old farts who are still around.
10 Wise Financial Moves To Make
Here are the top 10 wise financial moves you should make this year.
#1 Financial Move: Review your asset allocation
One of the most important financial moves you need to do is review your asset allocation. Setting and forgetting it is not a good strategy if you want to stay properly diversified.
For example, you might deploy a 50% equities, 50% bonds asset allocation. But if your equities climb 35% while your bonds decline 10%, and you want a 50/50 balance, you’re out of alignment because your portfolio is now 60% equities and 40% bonds.
I believe investors should rebalance at least twice a year, no matter how small the rebalance is. Taking the time to rebalance helps focus your attention on your investments so they don’t grow too far out of whack.
I’m personally following my Financial Samurai Asset Allocation Model for my age of 80% equities / 20% fixed income (mostly muni bonds). You can click on the post to see three other asset allocation models tailored towards your risk tolerance.
#2 Financial Move: Review your income and spending
You’ll be surprised by how much you’ve spent, and how much you THINK you’ve spent. Chances are high that you’re spending more than you realize, which is a detriment to your net worth building goal. This is why another very important one of the important financial moves you need to do is review your income and spending.
It’s the same idea as withdrawing money from an ATM machine and wondering where all the cash went a couple days later. Definitely tally up your total annual income and spending amounts. Then divide the figures by 12 to make the numbers more granular. Adjust your spending accordingly.
I’m always 90% focused on making more money because there’s only so much I can save. I’ve set detailed limits for spending on housing, food, transportation, entertainment, travel, etc, and rolled these figures up to a monthly figure I will not cross.
It’s a thrill to stick to a set spending number while trying to earn as much as I can beyond that threshold. The spending number is high enough where I feel free, but responsible with my money.
#3 Financial Move: Declutter and donate to charity
Not only is donating good for people in need, you get to declutter your house and get a tax write-off up to $500 per donation without having to fill out a form to say where the item came from.
We all tend to accumulate a bunch of stuff over time. It feels absolutely fantastic to get rid of “excess inventory” so that people with low inventory can be helped. You can also donate other assets such as stocks, your car, and other valuable goods as well.
Also consider decluttering your lifestyle. Our finances and lifestyles have a tendency to get more complicated with age. As you start to approach retirement, consider simplifying for less stress and greater happiness. Minimalism and early retirement go perfectly together.
When I last moved houses, I donated about eight bags of clothing to Goodwill and The Salvation Army. Less stuff means less to move! I had a couple items of furniture that couldn’t fit my smaller house that I had to donate as well.
I originally considered donating my car Moose for the tax write-off. But, I found it was so much more convenient to just trade him in when I got the Honda Fit. Besides, I’m not sure how much longer Moose would have lasted.
#4 Financial Move: Update your resume
Now is the time to update your resume and make sure it’s the best looking document on your computer. You’ll be surprised by how much you’ve accomplished over the course of a year that you can add to your resume.
Make different versions of your resume for different types of industries or jobs you’re eying. End of January through June is peak job hunting season.
Although I’m not actively looking for a job, my resume is updated with my latest accomplishments. I’ve got a finance version of my resume, just in case there’s some incredible opportunity to go back. I’ve also got an internet/media version of my resume. There’s a growing opportunity to help companies with their content strategy. There’s even “Chief Content Officer” titles now that pay multiple six figures.
As someone who has built a brand online that generates a good amount of organic traffic every day, I’ve been receiving a lot of inquiries from companies all over after I began consulting. Your X Factor can lead to many unforeseen opportunities! Stick with it!
#5 Financial Move: Keep yourself and your family safe
It’s important to make sure you’ve got appropriate health care insurance for you and your loved ones. Medical costs consistently rank as one of the top reasons for bankruptcies in the United States.
I don’t care if you are worth $5 million liquid. Some random illness could wipe you out if you don’t have the appropriate health care. In addition to having the appropriate health insurance, please make sure your housing insurance, car insurance, and personal property insurance coverage are correct.
Finally, if you have lots of assets that go beyond what your housing and car insurance can cover, definitely get an umbrella policy. The linked article explains what an umbrella policy is and how much it may cost.
I recently raised my umbrella policy by $1 million due to the bull market. Health insurance is going to be an issue for me in 2015 because I’m a contractor who no longer has Cobra from my old employer. As a result, I’m going to be venturing into the scary land of getting self insured under the new Obamacare policy.
You can see how much subsidy you can get based on income and family size in the linked post. I fully expect to pay around $700 a month per person and $1,400 a month for two. I think these figures are absurd, but that’s the price to pay for freedom.
#6 Financial Move: Review your will
Along the lines of financial moves to keep your loved ones safe, prioritize estate planning. Make sure you either have a will, or have an updated will if your financial circumstances have significantly changed.
You don’t want to inherit $50 million bucks, die, and then cause your entire immediate and extended family to start a civil war because they don’t know who is getting your millions. Money brings out people’s evil side, especially for those who’ve never had a lot of money.
Do your descendants a favor and be organized. Create a death file and inform your beneficiaries where all of your most important documents and instructions are. Make things as easy as possible for them to settle your estate. Here’s a very helpful checklist on preparing for death – your loved ones will thank you.
When I first wrote this post, I only had a living will that had gotten out of date due to the growth of my online business. Fortunately, my wife and I met with an estate planning attorney after son was born and we got our estate plan in order.
#7 Financial Move: Plan your taxes
I’ve already written an extensive piece about year-end tax moves to make. The bottom line is that for the large majority of people, the government takes away more than people save of their own income. How ridiculous is that?
Take time to gather your expenses, contribute to your pre-tax retirement funds, and calculate a realistic income figure for the next year. The closer your income figure calculation is to reality, the better you can manage your expenses, and ultimately your tax bill.
I’ve already begun gathering all my receipts and categorizing my expenses to deduct against my contracting income. I’ve also written all these posts about the subject to help get my mind straight.
# 8 Financial Move: Tie up loose ends
Use the end of the year to finish strong by completing all the things you should have completed already. The idea is to start the new year with as clean of a slate as possible so you have maximum momentum to achieve your goals.
Have you used up all your gift cards and expiring points? Maximize what you have and get rid of the baggage.
One of my biggest loose ends is finishing up four hours of online traffic school in order to pay my reduced traffic ticket. I don’t want that hanging over my head given I plan on traveling for a month in 1Q.
The other loose end is getting my bathroom plans approved by the San Francisco Department of Building so I can find bidders to do the work.
Then, my final loose end is selecting some new P2P loans returning 8-10% now. P2P lending has been my most neglected passive income stream over the past two years. I plan to change that by beefing up my account size and invested notes. Earning a ~7.3% return without having to do any work is very attractive. I could have earned more, but I was too lazy to deploy capital.
# 9 Financial Move: Run your investment portfolio through a fee checker
Do you know why money managers are so rich? It’s because they charge a tremendous amount of fees. It’s frustrating when your employer only offers actively run mutual funds with high fees, but it’s still better to max out your pre-tax retirement accounts as much as possible.
At least once a year I run my investment portfolios through Personal Capital’s Retirement Fee Analyzer. Just link your investment accounts and click on the Investing tab on the top right and then click Retirement Fee Analyzer.
I’ve optimized my two portfolios so that my annual fee is estimated at only 0.18% compared to the benchmark of 0.5% due to my selection of ETFs, Index Funds, and specific stocks. The other cool feature is the Investment Checkup feature that shows your current vs. target allocation.
#10 Financial Move: Rekindle neglected relationships
Do you know what happens at the beginning of each year for working professionals nowadays? We get inundated with LinkedIn requests and messages from friends on LinkedIn, FB, and wherever. Why? Because people are doing everything possible to network in order to find a new job.
This is problematic because people are only trying to connect with you when they need something. Although this is natural, it is not ideal at all. It’s much better to reach out to people throughout the year, check in, maintain relationships, and then potentially ask for help when help is needed.
Spend time looking through your connections you’ve neglected and at least drop a “happy holidays” type note and a brief summary of what you’ve been up to.
I’m going to spend at least five hours going through my social connections and wishing them well for the holidays. Life always gets really busy and we tend to neglect the majority of people we know.
I used to send out a couple hundred holiday cards a year, but I’ve gone 100% digital since. People tend to help people who’ve been there over the long term. I also plan to reach out to people who I’d like to get to know more and make a commitment for at least the next six months to see what happens.
Related: What Is The Real Meaning Of Wealth?
Financial Moves BONUS: Brainstorm and commit to doing one big thing
The world is chaotic, but don’t forget to set aside some quiet time soon in order to brainstorm and think big. I’m not talking about losing five pounds or getting a 10% raise that won’t do much for your life.
Instead, I’m talking about potentially life-altering objectives. This financial moves bonus is committing to doing something big. For example, changing jobs, moving to a different city/state/country, starting a business, finding the love of your life, buying a home, getting that degree, and more.
Visualize Success With Your Financial Moves
There is a reason why people create vision boards. They work! I advise everyone to visualize themselves 12 months from now in a more successful financial position. You’re more likely to complete the 10 financial moves above if you visualize success.
For example, if you no longer want to do your craptastic job that requires no thinking, visualize yourself doing something new and exciting with a different company.
If you no longer want to be in a dull relationship with a partner who takes you for granted, visualize yourself taking an amazing vacation with someone else. Or, if you’re sick and tired of living paycheck to paycheck, visualize yourself rocking an enormous bank account due to the positive steps you’ve taken to create wealth.
Years will continue to go by quicker and quicker the older we get. Make the most out of each one.
Readers, what other things do you recommend people do every year at least once?