As the sun sets on 2023, you might be reflecting on the gifts you gave, the Olympian-level feasting that has inspired your current sweatpants couture, or your New Year’s resolutions (let us state for the record that it’s perfectly acceptable to make resolutions whenever you want—do we really need a large, glittering globe in Times Square to kickstart good behavior?)
Gas is more expensive. Groceries are more expensive. Flights are more expensive which you already know if you had any vacations this past year. All this to say: we see you. It has been a game-changing year, and while we can’t opine much on your New Year’s resolutions, what we can do is offer up some financial planning tips that will have you well-positioned (and hopefully less stressed) when 2024 makes its debut.
Your Financial Wellness Checklist
There is something truly cathartic about being able to check something of your to-do list—especially when the outcome is you feeling more financially poised and empowered. Here are ten suggested ways to end the year strong.
1) Take inventory of change.
This is the perfect time to look at your major life milestones of the past year (or changes on the horizon) to ascertain how they intersect with your finances. Have you purchased a new car or home? Is someone in your household beginning higher education or staring down the barrel of loan repayment? Have you merged finances through marriage or cohabitation? Examine your income, monthly payments, and create a budget worksheet that reflects any factors that could affect your tax withholdings and overall financial picture.
2) Maximize your retirement accounts.
Does your current employer match your 401(k) plan contributions? Take advantage and contribute what you can. The deadline to contribute to 401(k) is usually December 31st and if you have an IRA account, you can make contributions right up until Tax Day. Doing this will help you reach those retirement savings goals and trim down your tax bill for the current year.
3) Tackle credit card debt.
We get it. The last thing you probably want right now is a reminder of your holiday extravagance. This is the time to enjoy the afterglow of presents and feasting. When you have the emotional fortitude, pay off credit card debt or, at minimum, chip away at credit cards that carry the highest interest rates. If you have solid credit, you may be able to pay off debt faster by transferring your credit card debt to a zero or low-interest card (just a heads up that this often comes with a fee.)
4) Check out your credit reports.
The end of the year is a good time to evaluate your credit standing. Beyond the aim of improving your score, monitoring your credit regularly alerts you to any errors or fraudulent transactions. Life members now have instant access to their credit score and credit report, along with personalized tips on how to improve their score or maintain an already great score. Members can use the credit score simulator tool to see how certain actions might impact your credit score and can then use that information to help you make smarter financial decisions. Click here to learn more.
5) Donate to a charitable cause.
If you’re able, put your dollars to meaningful use. Many charitable contributions of money or property are tax deductible and it’s hard to think of a better way to kickstart 2024 than investing in a cause you’re passionate about.
6) Enroll in a health insurance plan.
If you’re not already receiving health insurance benefits through your current employer, you can set up coverage for yourself through Marketplace.
7) Take advantage of your FSAs.
While on the subject of health benefits, make sure you check the end-of-year deadline if you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) through your current employer. If you don’t take advantage of unused benefits, you’ll lose them when the new calendar year rolls around. Schedule your yearly physical, get a cancer screening, or make that appointment to get your teeth cleaned that you’ve been putting off all year (we don’t judge you.)
8) Square away estate planning.
When life happens (marriage divorce, birth, death, or shifts in family dynamics) we’re often not fully prepared for the impact this can have. And while none of us have a crystal ball forecasting the future, you can still make plans to ensure your family and loved ones are accounted for. Evaluate your designated beneficiaries and trustees, make any necessary changes, and draft a will if you haven’t done so already.
9) Create an emergency fund.
Only 23% of Americans have emergency savings to cover six months of expenses. This percentage could decrease now that we’re seeing record-breaking inflation at the gas pump and grocery store. While your cash reserves might be a bit lean after the holiday season, consider setting up a direct deposit that funnels even a small percentage of your paycheck into a dedicated savings account.
10) Set new financial goals.
Is there a family vacation you wanted to take in 2023 but couldn’t budget for? Are there categories you’re overspending in and need to cut back on? Any big purchases you’re planning to make for yourself or others in your household? You might be ruminating on New Year’s resolutions already, so consider adding some financial goalposts to round out your 2024 list.
This article was provided in partnership with GreenPath Financial Wellness.