As 2016 winds down, are you on track with your 2016 goals? Where did the year go? We all started out the year with such promise and many plans. We have just a little over a month to go, if you haven’t already taken stock, please take some time out to do so; review the goals that you set and how far you have come.
Identifying your goals was the easy part; it is taking necessary action to actually achieve those goals that’s more difficult. Here are a few things to consider; prioritize and try to achieve at least three of them before the year runs out.
Did you invest in yourself?
You are your most important asset. What have you done to improve yourself this year? Did you read any good books? Did you enroll on a course either online or otherwise? What are those innate skills and talents that have been in the background? Did you uncover them and start to develop them? Did you actually leverage on them and earn from them? Self-development is one of the surest ways to success, and this need not be expensive. Just taking a little time each day to improve yourself can have a remarkable impact.
Did you create a budget and more importantly, did you stick to it?
Tracking your expenses for a month is one of the most effective ways to find out where all your money is disappearing! Tracking expenses, and I mean writing every single thing down, helps you spot irregularities or identify waste and this is a reminder to take steps to adjust your expenses. With a clearer picture, you can start to save and invest. Download “Nimi’s budget” to help you to categorize your expenses and follow your budget.
Have you reduced your debt?
If your plan was to pay off or at least reduce your debt, are you carrying less debt now than you did on the 1st of January? Make a conscious effort to tackle your most expensive debt first. If it is in foreign exchange, make this a priority as any further devaluation could increase your costs drastically. Your high interest debt should also be proactively dealt with. By automating your debt payments and making incremental principal payments each month, you will soon find that your debt begins to come under control. Approach your lender and discuss the possibilities for rescheduling to make it more manageable. Debt is a major source of financial problems so do make this one of your to dos before the end of the year.
Are your savings growing?
If you are suddenly faced with unexpected job loss, major car repairs, or medical expenses, will you be able to cope or will your finances be thrown into disarray? A financial cushion to fall back on will give you peace of mind. Most financial advisors suggest that you should save between 10% and 20% or more of your income and build up a fund of about 6 – 12 months of regular expenses to tide you over difficult periods. Force yourself to save by automating your savings with a direct debit into a mutual fund or other savings vehicle. Most mutual fund companies make it easy for you to be able to automate your savings and investment plan.
When last did you check what interest rate is applied to your money market investments? Have you tried to negotiate an increase? This might not necessarily be the highest rate in the market but be sure that you are getting a competitive rate and that the financial institution where you deposit your money is NDIC insured or regulated. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is: don’t place your savings in any Ponzi Scheme; you will eventually lose it.
When last did you review your investments?
Have you made any new investments or disposed of some? Do your investments meet the objectives you set and are they still appropriate for your short, medium and long term goals, your risk tolerance and the expected investment time horizon? Do you need to rebalance your portfolio before the year runs out to meet some cash needs early in the New Year? It is important to have a diversified portfolio across the various asset classes; this will reduce risk. [READ: The Power of Investments]
Have you made a will?
So many of us are guilty of procrastination, particularly when the task is not an enjoyable one. Death and the thought of it make one uncomfortable. However, dying without a will, or an outdated will, can cost your loved ones so much distress. Take that step, consider your estate plan and protect those that you love most in the world.
Review your will if you have made one in the last two years and update it to make sure that it reflects your current circumstances. Perhaps your assets have grown or shrunk? Perhaps you got married recently or have had new additions to the family, children or grandchildren, since you wrote your last will. You might have remarried and are now part of a couple that has brought some financial baggage into a relationship. This needs some careful thought.
How is your health?
Money worries are a leading cause of strokes and heart attacks. Your physical health has a direct relationship with your financial health. When last did you have a full medical health check? Do you have a health insurance policy in place? One nasty illness can wipe out a lifetime of saving and investing. Don’t jeopardize your health seeking for wealth, or you will spend all your wealth trying to gain back your health. We all need some down time so if you have been working non-stop all year, stop to catch your breath and try to take a short break before the end of the year.
Where are your documents?
We all have important personal and family documents. If you had to produce your various insurance policy papers for your car, home, health and life, your marriage certificate, or title documents, could you produce them immediately, or would you have to go on a marathon search over several days to locate them? Are your documents scanned and kept secure electronically? When last did you have a look at your travel documents? Is your passport valid with enough room for new visas and immigration stamps? Do you have appropriate passport photographs, travel insurance and a valid yellow card? Don’t wait until its time to travel as such lapses cause you unnecessary anxiety and money.
What impact have you had on others?
Has it all been about you this year or have you had a positive impact on others? Creating wealth comes with responsibility to touch lives, change lives, and even save lives. Include philanthropy in your plan.
If you have fallen back on your plans and aren’t quite where you had hoped to be, you can still make adjustments and get back on track before the end of the year. Chances are that you have not completely met your own expectations but that’s alright; the key is to stop procrastinating and get started.
Nimi Akinkugbe has extensive experience in private wealth management. She seeks to empower people regarding their finances and offers frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance.
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