Personal financial planning is an ongoing process. The good news is that financially speaking, most of 2018 was another really good year. The stock markets once again hit an all time high before giving back all of those gains at the end of the year . Real estate prices around the country continue to increase. And interest rates, while increasing slightly this year, still remain near historic lows.
Hello 2019. Who knows how financially friendly this year will be – especially with Trump entering the third year of his Presidency and the Democrats taking over the House of Representatives. For that reason, here are some prudent steps you can take to keep your personal finances moving on the right track:
• REset your retirement savings: Most people find it easier to max out their retirement contributions by budgeting a set amount each month. Instruct your employer to withhold $1,583.33 per month for your 401(k) or 403(b) plan to ensure that you hit the max of $19,000 in 2018. Are you self-employed? If so, you can sock away up to $56,000 next year into a SEP, Keogh or Solo 401(k), which equals $4,666.67 per month. And if you’ll be 50 or older by December 31st, the maximum 2019 contribution jumps to $25,000 for 401(k) and 403(b) salary deferrals and $62.000 for Solo 401(k)’s.
• REfinance your home mortgage: Back in 2012, my wife and I locked in a fifteen-year fixed-rate mortgage at 2.875% with no points. While mortgage rates may no longer be quite that low, according to our go to mortgage guru Bob Cahill of Leader Bank, there are still a variety of mortgage products currently available to people looking to purchase a new home or perhaps even refinance an existing mortgage.
• REduce your personal debt: Over time, people and businesses seem to have forgotten that any money borrowed needs to be repaid. Remember, leverage equals risk. Make 2019 a year to pay down some of your personal debt. Perhaps you can delay the purchase of a new car, scale down your awesome vacation, or settle for a 60 inch flat screen TV. (You should still take a vacation with family and friends though.)
• REvise your savings and debt reduction goals: Take a few minutes to set (and also write down) new savings goals including how much you’d like to put away towards your retirement, a child’s education, and/or the down payment on a home, and also to reset how much you plan to pay down your student loans, personal debt, and home mortgage.
• REbalance your investment portfolio: Warren Buffet said it best by stating, “A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.” During 2018, the stock market once again hit another all time high before giving back all of those gains at the end of the year. By rebalancing your portfolio to its original or updated asset allocation, you lock in gains from the sectors that performed the best and move money into sectors that underperformed and soon enough might be poised to catch up.
• REcalculate how much your retirement savings will be worth when you retire: With the market indexes still near all time highs, now’s a great time to take a look at how much buying power you can expect to have upon retiring.
• REvisit your life and disability insurance needs: As you move through your career and your life, your life and disability needs change. Give some thought to how much of these insurances you need versus how much you currently get through your employer’s benefit package and how much coverage you’ve already purchased for your personal policies.
• REsolve errors on your credit report: Each year, you’re entitled to three free credit reports, so there’s no excuse to not look at this important financial report annually, especially since errors are not uncommon. Order your free report at www.annualcreditreport.com.
You can also listen to a radio interview I had with Boston radio personality George Knight a few years back on this topic