Financial Resolutions for 2016 You’re Guaranteed to Keep
New Year’s Resolutions the last few decades have become something of a pop culture joke, a cute tradition we use to temporarily feel better about ourselves before the temptation of mass consumerism, once again, lures us blissfully to the dark side. It has gotten so absurd that the conversation these days usually isn’t about what resolutions you’re making, but how long said resolutions will last. Because they never, ever truly last.
Or do they?
You may go back to cookies and chocolate after a couple months, you might give up on your daily treadmill routine after a week, and kicking your social cigarette habit will be lucky to survive three days—but New Year’s Resolutions related to your personal finances maybe, just maybe, be the ones that actually stick.
Why? Because many of these types of resolutions don’t involve a daily commitment (and daily self-convincing) to follow-through on. As the fateful day comes and goes, all that’s required of you is one decision, one minor tweak that can add up to nothing more to a mouse click, and you can go on with your life like nothing ever happened—only you’ll be much, much more financially secure.
Below are four examples of exactly what I mean:
New Year’s Resolutions for Your Finances
Max out your 401(k)
Savings accounts are fantastic. They’re more-or-less safe, they’re convenient, and they acquire modest interest the more you put into it. However, if you’re one easily swayed by Black Friday adverts for the latest HDTV, that convenience may work against you. Sometimes it pays, quite literally, to have some form of account a little more secure—from yourself. That’s the true beauty of a 401(K); barring some serious emergency, it’s impossible to dive into a 401(k) savings without taking a steep 10% penalty fee. If you want some sound peace-of-mind for your future, there’s no better choice you can make than to invest in it, an invest hard. At bare minimum, invest enough that your employer will match your percentage. If you can afford it, max it out to the allowed $18,000 to receive the largest tax break. You’ll hardly notice that it’s gone, your future self will kiss you for it, and all it takes is a couple signatures on some paperwork.
Re-Evaluate Your Insurance
You’re not in college anymore. You’re not capable of running full-tilt on caffeine and energy bars alone. Time does strange things to your immune system, as well as your priorities. Have you gotten married? Do you now have little minions running around the house getting out of trouble? You just might want to take a good long look at your insurance bundles (health, car, homeowners, etc.) and see if they accurately reflect the needs of your new life. Also, with a family it might finally be time to consider a life insurance package in case the worst should ever occur. I would recommend updating your insurance once a year, but making it one of your annual resolutions will remind you to actually do it.
Take Advantage of Your Insurance
As the New Year approaches, in addition to updating your insurance policies, make sure to use the perks of the policies you do have! Does your insurance cover a doctor’s checkup? A free pair of glasses or box of contacts? All expenses paid teeth cleaning by Dentist La Habra? Like annual vacation days, these are very much a use-it-or-lose-it kind of deal. If you haven’t used them by the time the ball drops on Time’s Square, then you might as well flush the money you’re spending on your monthly payment down the toilet. And keep in mind: getting a checkup is never a bad idea. If your insurance provides you with one freebie and you haven’t used it yet, by all means make an appointment to see if everything is working the way it should. Check your policy before you pop the champagne and see what you’re entitled to.
Make a Significant Charity Donation
I love putting my spare change in the Salvation Army tins at Christmas time. It’s a wonderful organization, and you can be sure those few quarters will be put to great use. However, from a pure financial standpoint, donations on that scale don’t really do much for you outside of the warm-and-fuzzies you get doing a good deed. This year, up the ante a little and make a large contribution to your favorite charity or cause. Money of course is always welcome, but clothing, perishables, and sometimes even vehicles will also be accepted. The best part is of course giving aid to those who need it, but as an added bonus many of these donations are 100% tax deductible provided you give them before Dec. 31st. Diligently keep track of your receipts (donating near the end of the year will decrease the likelihood of losing your receipt), and you’ll be able to welcome the New Year with a nice big return coming your way. The holidays are about giving, so why not partake in the merriment. You have, quite literally, nothing to lose.