As 2019 gradually comes to an end in barely two weeks, thereby ushering in the start of a new decade, do find some time to get some clarity around your personal finances. Of course, with the spending frenzy, all the parties and activities, it is easy to put aside such a mundane task till next year, but don’t procrastinate.
The end of the year is always a good time to take stock and to prepare yourself for a new year. Your personal finances need periodic attention. Spare a morning for your personal finances so you can start the new year 2020 with some clarity.
Here are some smart money moves to make before the end of the year. Start by mulling over these questions and the financial implication of each:
- Did you start a new job?
- How have you fared in your financial life in 2019?
- Did you get married?
- Did you have a new baby?
- Were you widowed?
- Did you get divorced?
- Any other significant life events?
- Did you retire?
Where are your important documents?
An important part of managing your personal finances is keeping your financial records organized. Do you know where your important documents are? Are you a hoarder that keeps documents for years and years just in case you need them? Is your desk cluttered with old bank statements, bills and receipts? Avoid leaving sensitive documents lying around for an unscrupulous visitor to rifle through. Your financial information is confidential. When your trash is picked up, you don’t know where it ends up–it can become prime targets for thieves.
There are some sensitive, hard to replace legal and financial documents to be particularly conscious of. These include birth and marriage certificates, international passports, insurance policies, tax returns, your will, trusts, power of attorney, title documents for your assets such as your property, cars and so on. These should all be kept securely, ideally in a fireproof cabinet or safe. Scan and store electronic copies of your critical personal and financial documents as appropriate. Buy an inexpensive shredder for sensitive documents that you no longer need, to minimise the chances of the wrong person getting at your information. Save yourself the stress and get yourself organised.
What are you worth?
Ideally, your net worth should be increasing each year showing that you are making progress and that your financial decisions are actually working. By tracking your assets and your liabilities, you have a fair indication of where you stand financially. If you can, compare it to your net-worth this time last year to see how it’s changed; what has worked and what hasn’t. This information can influence your plans for 2020 and set you on the right track.
Advances in financial technology make it easy for you to manage your banking and personal finances digitally; you can create a budget, pay routine bills, manage bank accounts, track every-day finances, make and monitor investments…If you haven’t already registered for your bank’s online banking, be deliberate about embracing technology and simplifying your finances in 2020.
Give your insurance some attention
Change is always constant; circumstances change. Most significant life events have financial consequences that need action. For example, if you got married and give birth or other major life events, there will be changes in your insurance coverage which need to be re-evaluated, particularly your life insurance if you are the primary breadwinner.
At least once each year, gather your insurance records and review the adequacy of your coverage. Be sure to evaluate all your insurance coverage including health, life insurance, home-owners insurance, auto insurance, renters insurance, etc. and determine what changes might be required for the coming year.
When last did you check in with your investments?
Look at your investments; what are their prospects? What are the returns on your stock, bond, or mutual fund investments? Are you satisfied with their performance or is it time to make some changes? Should you continue to hold them all? Will you take advantage of a dip in the market to buy some more shares since some are trading significantly below their true value? Do you have property?
Is your portfolio of the right mix to make it possible for you to realise your short, medium and long-term goals? As your circumstances change, there may be a need to review things and make some adjustments. Find time to chat with a professional financial advisor who will guide you regarding investments that match your risk appetite, financial standing, goals and time frames.
Do you have any savings?
What is your account balance? How much did you save this year? It is very essential that you have at least six months to twelve months of your monthly expenses saved in short-term money market securities. If you have no emergency savings at all, and you suddenly become unemployed or need to pay important bills, you could be very vulnerable and this is an area you should pay attention to.
Do you have an estate plan?
Do you have a will, a trust, joint accounts, or any other estate-planning tool? If there have been some major life events this year, a review of your documents, including your will, trust and insurance documents is important. Does your estate plan still fairly reflect your personal wishes for the distribution of your assets? Have the personal or financial circumstances or your beneficiaries significantly changed over the past year?
An estate plan evolves as circumstances change. It helps you to structure any newly acquired assets appropriately in your lifetime, and also ensures that your family can be taken care of in accordance with your wishes for them. Keep documents up-to-date and make sure that your lawyer or other trusted persons know where they are.
How much do you owe?
Are you in debt? Do you have a bank loan or did you borrow from family, friends or your community club? List out all your debt at the end of the year so that you know exactly what your obligations are and build in a plan to address this in the new year. set your priorities right, make a budget and try to follow it strictly.
It is very important to start planning for your retirement as soon as you started your first job. Is retirement looming? What is your retirement fund looking like? Your pension is unlikely to be enough to sustain you in the lifestyle you envision for yourself in retirement, so your investment portfolio needs to work for you–cash, mutual funds, bonds, stock, real estate, business interests etc.–to support that time when you no longer wish to work or can no longer work.
Did you make an impact?
What impact have you made on others this year? The joy of touching lives and changing is the greatest investment of all. If you didn’t manage to do much, it’s never too late to make a difference; just get started.
As the year draws to a close, look back on how you’ve done financially over the past year and take stock, review your mistakes as well as successes and put a plan in place to do better in 2020. Even a small step in the right direction could make all the difference. No matter how busy you are, make the time.
Nimi Akinkugbe has extensive experience in private wealth management. She seeks to empower people regarding their finances and offers frank, practical insights to create greater awareness and understanding of personal finance.
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