New year, best you ever?
Then you need to get great with money.
If this year is going to be the year you get your finances in tip-top shape, Congratulations!
Having your finances in order is incredibly rewarding, lowers stress levels, improves relationships, and even gives you the ability to fund your wildest dreams.
First, let's get something straight: being great with money does not have to mean making unsustainable sacrifices. It also doesn't mean that you need to be good with math. If you made it past the 6th grade then you more than got this.
Anyone can learn to be great with money, simply by following a few simple rules and adopting the right habits.
Getting great with money also means getting real about your spending habits & debt but also being able to afford your dream vacation. It's all about planning for all of it and utilizing your money as a tool to have the kind of life you want to experience.
Yes, you do deserve a vacation, I agree with you, but with inflation soaring, student loan repayment set to resume in May 2022, and the threat of yet another COVID variant looming, having a plan to save and invest your money is absolutely necessary.
A RAPID financial review is exactly what you need to meet your 2022 financial goals.
What is a RAPID financial review?
Automate for ease.
Plan for next year.
Invest for the future.
Review your 2021 Spending
If your goal is to make changes in the new year, you need to be honest with yourself about what your spending habits were like in 2021.
If you budget already, open up your spreadsheet and identify trends in your spending. Are your spending trends seasonal or categorical?
For example, my travel spending is much higher in the summer, and my gift spending skyrockets in December. Examine the spending categories that you overdo monthly and ask yourself if it is a meaningful spending category in your life that sparks joy or something you can forgo.
Identify signs of lifestyle creep like subscriptions you don’t use or weekly Target splurges in the name of self-care.
If you don’t budget already, look at your debit and credit card statements over the last 3 months and write down where your money went - including the categories and the amounts.
Next, check your credit score and get your credit report from one of the three credit bureaus. Look for any mistakes that may be lowering your score.
This year an address that I’ve never lived at appeared on my credit report, and I was able to easily remove it online with Experian. I also use CreditWise to monitor my credit score because I can easily identify ways I can continue to increase it.
I also recommend calculating your net worth before going into the new year.
Your net worth is the summary of your assets minus your liabilities or what you own minus what you owe.
I love the website Personal Capital for net worth calculations. They have a user-friendly platform that shows you a macro view of your finances. I also use the Mint app, which tracks your credit score, calculates net worth, tracks spending, and offers valuable insights.
Automate for Ease
Now that you know where your money is going, simplify the process for yourself.
The easiest way to get organized for 2022?
Automatically pay your bills
Deposit all your income into one account and link autopay to this account for all your bills.
Save and invest before you spend the remainder.
Once all your bills are paid, then you can decide how much to automatically move to high-yield savings account for your emergency funds and sinking funds with each paycheck.
You can also set up your Roth IRA and taxable brokerage accounts to auto-invest although you may still have to manually buy funds each month.
I personally direct deposit money from each paycheck into a separate account which is used only to auto-pay student loan payments and car insurance payments. I hid the debit card to this account in the back of my sock drawer for emergencies!
Plan for 2022
Automating will save you so much time, and creating a plan will give your year direction.
Using your 2021 budget or three-month review for reference, create your budget for 2022.
Budgets are not all about restriction, scarcity, and frugality. They are about spending in areas that are personally meaningful to you and saving in areas that are not. Your budget keeps you from being in the ‘red’ each month and is a framework for making sure your money is serving your wants and needs.
In addition to your monthly budget, identify any big, upcoming life changes or events in 2022 like starting PA school, changing jobs, travel, car insurance, or a wedding. Write them on your calendar so you can budget accordingly.
A big change for most of us in 2022 is that student loans are going to restart on May 1st. If you haven’t already, log into your student loan servicer account and update your contact information. Take note of your monthly payment and when the first payment is due. If you foresee having any issue affording this payment, call your servicer now before customer service becomes congested.
Create a plan for your student loan payoff whether you’re going to be utilizing income-based repayment, PSLF, or refinancing your student loans to a lower rate. Don’t forget to add these payments to your 2022 budget.
Invest for the Future
Even if you are paying off student loans in the new year, you should still be investing for the future.
At a minimum, invest into your 401k up until you meet your employer match. If you already are, consider increasing your contributions, even if it’s just by 1%.
Spend time reviewing all your investment accounts including your 401k, Roth IRA, HSA, and taxable brokerage accounts. Evaluate your asset allocation and make sure it’s in alignment with your risk tolerance i.e. how much of your money you are comfortable investing in stocks vs bonds (Note: Personal Capital will provide feedback in these areas).
Make doubly sure that all the money in your investment accounts is actually invested into the stock market and not sitting inactively in a money market fund.
If you are new to investing, consider making it a goal to open a Roth IRA and invest in a low-cost index fund in 2022.
You’ve reviewed, automated, planned, and invested for 2022, and now it’s time to have a little fun.
Are you dreaming of a vacation, a wedding, or a house? Or a gym membership, a therapist, or more trips home to spend time with family?
Write down your goal, how much money you will need to meet it, and by when. You can automate your savings to move the money into a sinking fund for long-term goals and incorporate short-term goals into your monthly budget.
Are there larger financial goals you’d like to meet like maxing out your retirement accounts, becoming debt-free, investing in real estate, or starting your own business?
Identify one actionable step you can take for this goal in January like reading a personal finance book, or listening to a podcast on the topic, networking or finding a mentor, or taking a course or class.
Regardless of what your dreams are, you have already built a strong financial foundation to kick your year off right.
Make sure you don't miss a step, and if you haven't already Download the RAPID Financial Review Checklist, schedule yourself some time to sit and implement these. Trust us, once you do you will wish you had done it much sooner!