We begin 2018 with boundless optimism – the possibilities and opportunities for what the New Year may bring are endless. We have ambitions and dreams that we hope to realize (or at least get closer to making a reality) with each passing day. It is ironic that we spend so much time thinking about where we want to get to, but very little time thinking about how we are going to get there.
This year, I encourage you to dream, but I challenge you to focus on the process as well. Processes involve action items – steps you can take to get from point A to point B. While your finances may or may not be at the top of your list of priorities for 2018, if your financial affairs are in order, it will give you the freedom and flexibility to focus on your other objectives. Below are 10 action items that will help energize your wealth management efforts and get you closer to reaching those goals of yours.
- Save! Are you maximizing contributions to company retirement plans and/or IRAs? In 2018, you can contribute as much as $18,500 ($24,500 if you are over 50) to company retirement plans and up to $5,500 ($6,500 if you are over 50) to IRAs.
- Perform an insurance audit. Most households have insurance: home, auto, life…maybe disability and/or umbrella. Review your coverage levels and make sure you have adequate coverage in place, that you are comfortable with your deductible amounts, and that your beneficiaries are as you wish. Most people just renew their policies every year without checking to see if the level and type of insurance they have is really what they need.
- Review your debt load. Prioritize paying down high interest credit cards. Review your credit cards and your mortgage and make sure the interest rates, incentives, protections and perks appropriately reflect your needs.
- Check your credit reports. You can request a free annual credit report from each of the three primary reporting agencies (we recommend using www.annualcreditreport.com). We recommend staggering your requests so that you get a report every 4 months, enabling you to keep an eye on your credit which is especially important in the wake of the last summer’s Equifax breach.
- Review your spending. Review how much you spent in 2017 and determine how that is expected to change in 2018. Are your plans for the future still on track? If not, make adjustments now while the year is still young.
- Review your investments. Does your investment portfolio continue to reflect your personal goals and risk tolerances? Do you have a solid investment strategy in place that you are sticking to? While successful investing is predicated on patience and perspective, a new year is as good a time as any to review your plan and make sure you are on track.
- Ensure your estate plans are current. If you have an estate plan in place, it is critical to review it periodically. Births, deaths, marriages, divorces, business acquisitions, changes in tax laws – your original intentions may have changed and you want to make sure your estate plan reflects your wishes.
- Review your health care directives /living wills. As healthcare becomes increasingly complex, advance directives are critical to ensuring your health care wishes are met should you be unable to express them when the need arises. You want to make sure that your loved ones can act on your behalf in a way that is consistent with your preferences.
- Ensure that you can still provide care to your adult children. If you have a child who is 18, it is critical to have legal paperwork in place so that healthcare providers and others can respond to your requests or even discuss your adult child’s personal information with you. You will want to be sure to have a healthcare power of attorney and HIPAA authorization in place,
- Understand what the new tax law means for you. Even though your 2017 taxes are not due until April 17, 2018, the new tax laws that took effect in 2018 will have a far-reaching impact on people at all income levels. Begin to get an understanding of what the new tax law means for you and what you can expect in terms of a tax liability for 2018.