A recent study published in The Ascent revealed interesting trends with regard to financial related new year’s resolutions. According to the report, 66% of Americans plan on making a financial resolution for themselves in 2023. Interestingly, the study found that 73% of Millennials and 70% of Gen Zers plan on setting financial goals compared to just 61% of Gen Xers and 42% of Baby Boomers.
Having a plan is important, but a plan without action doesn’t deliver results. Below are some practical steps you can take right now to help your personal financial picture.
Start by setting specific, achievable, and measurable financial goals. Consider the following important financial milestones everyone should tackle. Personal financial advice is personal! This article won’t be able to give you the exact right answer for your situation, but it should help you with applying financial concepts to your life. I will include my view on how to make these goals specific, achievable, and measurable this year.
- Manage Cash Flow: Cash Flow is the foundation of your financial plan so tracking what comes in and what goes out is critical. You can, and should, automate this task so that it doesn’t become overly burdensome. There are plenty of free (or cheap) online budgeting apps, as well as spreadsheet templates to help you reach this goal. At Northbrook Financial, I task all clients to complete a monthly categorization of cash flow within our online app that can be accessed online and via a mobile app. Tracking your cash flow monthly is a critical financial guardrail – and like any habit, once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature and part of being a responsible adult!
- Specific: Manage Personal Cash Flow
- Achievable: Utilize an online app or spreadsheet and categorize every item that comes in to your accounts (inflows) and every item that goes out (outflows). Set a notification to do this within the first week of every month for the prior month’s activity.
- Measurable: Complete for one year so you can see how your cash flow fluctuates over time. If you are cash flow positive, congratulations! Now set up an automatic transfer to invest a little more then go out and treat yourself! (you worked hard to manage cash flow!)
- Pay off personal debt: High-interest debt, such as credit card debt, can be a significant drain on your finances. Make a plan to pay off your debt as quickly as possible to save money on interest and improve your overall financial health. If you have a rolling credit card balance, I encourage you to immediately login to your account and pay off some amount of that balance and set up a monthly transfer (as much as you reasonably can) to pay off the debt as soon as possible. Balance transfers to 0% APR cards is one way to help slow the bleeding, but living without credit card debt must be a priority goal and one you strive to reach ASAP in 2023!
- Specific: Payoff credit card debt
- Achievable: Login to your account and make one payment right now (in any amount). Once you have made one payment, set up a recurring transfer from your bank account to the credit card account and focus on paying off your balance as soon as possible.
- Measurable: Write down your total outstanding credit card balances as of the beginning of this year and then on 12/31/2023 and calculate how much debt you have paid off. When the year-end balance gets to $0 – do a little dance, treat yourself to something nice, then divert that monthly transfer to a savings or investment account to keep building wealth!
- Save for emergencies: It’s important to have an emergency fund in case of unexpected expenses, such as a car repair or medical bill. Aim to save at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in an easily accessible account. For Example, let’s say you spend about $5,000/month on expenses and you want to build a 3 month emergency fund. Take the following steps:
- $5,000 x 3 = $15,000. This is the goal!
- Open a high yield online savings account (you can currently earn ~4% interest compared to ~0.03% in a traditional bank account).
- Divide $15,000 by 12 ($1,250) and schedule an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to your high yield savings account.
- Since interest will immediately start earning on your monthly contributions, you will more than meet your goal before the year is over.
- Specific: Build an emergency fund
- Achievable: See steps a – d above and do it!
- Measurable: Calculate your total savings account balance today and then again on 12/31/2023. If it is higher by at least your emergency fund goal – congratulations!
- Invest for the future: Consider investing in a retirement account, such as a 401(k) or IRA, to save for your long-term financial goals. You can also invest in a taxable brokerage account for general wealth building that also provides more flexibility for when you can use the money. The biggest ingredient to a successful investment strategy is time! The earlier you start, no matter how small, the higher your probability of success will be. Remember to align your investments with your goals. If retirement is 30 years down the road, don’t freak out about the drop in stocks this year – view it as a buying opportunity! If you need to save for an upcoming expense: new car, house, wedding, Bar Mitzvah – keep your money in safer investments such as Government bonds, high yielding CDs, or savings accounts. The accounts you chose to invest in are important, so do your research, speak with a certified tax or financial planner and start building financial wealth.
- Specific: Contribute to an investment account
- Achievable: Set up an automatic transfer either via payroll deductions or an automatic transfer from your bank account to an investment account. Fit this into your cash flow management plan.
- Measurable: Calculate the balance in all of your investment accounts today and then again on 12/31/2023. If the balance has increased, congratulations – you have built wealth!
Just this year, when reviewing the app with my wife, she found $70 in monthly subscriptions that we were not even using. We canceled and will enjoy the $70 back in our pocket every month!
The information contained herein is intended to be used for educational purposes only and is not exhaustive. Diversification and/or any strategy that may be discussed does not guarantee against investment losses but are intended to help manage risk and return. If applicable, historical discussions and/or opinions are not predictive of future events. The content is presented in good faith and has been drawn from sources believed to be reliable. The content is not intended to be legal, tax or financial advice. Please consult a legal, tax or financial professional for information specific to your individual situation.
This content not reviewed by FINRA
Northbrook Financial is an Investment Adviser registered with the State of Maryland. All views, expressions, and opinions included in this communication are subject to change. This communication is not intended as an offer or solicitation to buy, hold or sell any financial instrument or investment advisory services. Any information provided has been obtained from sources considered reliable, but we do not guarantee the accuracy or the completeness of any description of securities, markets or developments mentioned. Please contact us at 410-941-9709 if there is any change in your financial situation, needs, goals or objectives, or if you wish to initiate or modify any restrictions on the management of the account. Our current disclosure brochure, Form ADV Part 2, is available upon request, and on our website https://www.northbrookfinancial.com