It’s time to make some investing resolutions. The start of a new year is a good opportunity to complete a financial review of the year just ended and see what you’ve accomplished in terms of building your wealth, increasing your net worth, and growing your investments. Only then can you consider which financial resolutions will help you achieve your money goals going forward.
As the New Year approaches, here are five moves that you may want to consider to potentially move you toward a brighter financial outlook.
- With Dec. 31 around the corner, you may want to consider making some investing resolutions for the New Year.
- While many people break their New Year’s resolutions, fixing your finances early and adjusting your planning for the rest of the year can be done quickly and easily.
- A great time to limit investment fees and adjust investment allocation is prior to a new year starting.
- The final months of the year are prime for looking at your tax efficiency and updating your financial checklist.
- We suggest five New Year’s resolutions to get your finances in order that shouldn’t be hard to keep.
1. Pay Fewer Investment Fees
Fees can be a major detractor from your wealth-building efforts, shrinking your investment earnings over time. They are, in essence, negative returns. Take mutual funds, for example. The fees for mutual funds can add up, whether that’s a transaction fee when you buy or sell (which is often referred to as a load) or annual fees that are paid on an ongoing basis.
Moving toward the New Year, you have two options for limiting what you’re paying out in fees:
- The first is to rethink your investment choices. For example, if you’re heavily invested in actively managed mutual funds, you may be able to trim some of the fee fat by opting for passively managed exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or index funds instead.
- If you’ve already chosen relatively low-cost funds, but high advisory fees are eating into your earnings, it may be time to think about changing financial advisors. When vetting potential replacement candidates, carefully review the fee structure, their services, and their professional credentials so that you understand what they have to offer and what it’s going to cost.
Today, many online brokerages offer commission-free trading in stocks and ETFs for do-it-yourselfers. Moreover, automated robo-advisor platforms can manage your money professionally and dynamically based on your own financial goals for a fraction of what it costs to hire most human financial advisors.
2. Expand Your Portfolio
Diversification is important for insulating your investments against volatility in the market. If your investments are concentrated in one particular asset class, you’re putting your whole portfolio at risk if that market sector experiences a downturn. If your investments lack variety, then injecting some new blood into your holdings should be on your to-do list.
Real estate, for example, can be a good hedge against fluctuations in the market. If you’re not investing in real estate yet, this could be a great time to consider adding a rental property to your portfolio. As an alternative, investing in a real estate investment trust (REIT) or venturing into real estate crowdfunding could allow you to reap the benefits of owning real estate without actually having to purchase a property.
You may also want to consider buying a small amount of cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin or Ether, to add to your portfolio. Crypto has emerged as a new asset class and is now being taken quite seriously by institutional investors, large corporations, and governments. While crypto assets remain volatile and you should only risk what you can afford to lose in a holding like this, it has a chance of being a lucrative way to begin the next year.
3. Become a More Regular Rebalancer
Periodically rebalancing your portfolio helps to ensure that you’re maintaining the right asset allocation to meet your investment goals. The trouble is that all too often, investors fail to take a hands-on role in managing their investments, preferring a set-it-and-forget-it approach.
If you haven’t paid much attention to rebalancing in the past, the New Year is an opportunity to change things up. For example, if you normally rebalance once a year, think about increasing that to semiannually or quarterly. While you don’t need to review your asset allocation daily (and therein lies madness—plus the risk of overreacting to minor market changes), you should keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening with your investments.
If you would like to rebalance but fear that you will forget or won’t have the time to do so, you can also consider automatic rebalancing options such as using a robo-advisor or investing in a target-date fund (TDF), which will not only rebalance within a given year but also grow increasingly conservative as the target date (e.g., your retirement) approaches.
4. Increase Your Tax Efficiency
Along with management fees, taxes can present another drain on your investments. This typically isn’t something that you have to worry about with a qualified retirement plan, such as an employer’s plan or an individual retirement account (IRA). With a 401(k) or a traditional IRA, for example, your savings grow tax deferred and withdrawals after age 59½ are taxed at your regular income tax rate at the time.
With a taxable investment account, on the other hand, you have to be mindful of triggering the capital gains tax. This tax applies when you sell an investment for more than what it cost when you purchased it. One way to minimize this tax is to choose tax-efficient investments, such as ETFs or index funds. These kinds of funds have lower turnover compared with actively managed funds, which reduces the frequency of taxable events.
Tax-loss harvesting is a strategy that you can also try to reduce your tax burden. This involves selling lagging securities for a tax loss and then buying a different stock or ETF that is very similar to the one you’ve sold. Many financial advisory services, including automated robo-advisors, will offer tax-loss harvesting, sometimes at no additional cost.
You should always check with your accountant or tax advisor before making a decision that may affect your taxes.
5. Create or Update Your Financial Checklist
An annual review of your financial checklist or plan is always a good thing to do before a new year starts. Here, you’ll want to make sure that any changes you’ve had over the past year or expect to have in the future are reflected in your goals and how you expect to achieve them.
Make sure you have a thoughtful budget that allows you to live your lifestyle while also saving enough for both emergencies and future goals. Segment your goals by time horizon, from short-term ones like buying a new washing machine to medium-term ones like college savings, and long-term ones like retirement.
Review your investments to make sure that they still satisfy these goals, and if not, make the proper adjustments. You may also use this opportunity to check in with a financial advisor, accountant, or estate attorney to ensure that your financial checklist is complete.
What is tax efficiency?
Tax efficiency is when a person or business pays the least amount of taxes required by law. Given the complexity of tax law, it is often prudent for investors to hire tax professionals to ensure that their tax liability is optimized.
What is a financial checkup?
A financial checkup is a systematic review of the complete state of one’s finances. It is prudent to conduct a financial checkup annually, or after major life events such as marriage, birth, or the purchase of a new home.
Should I hire a financial counselor?
Financial counselors help individuals develop financial literacy skills and good financial habits. Whether you should hire someone to help you develop these skills will vary by person and situation. Financial counselors often charge lower fees than financial advisors and planners and often are geared toward educating clients about how to manage money more effectively and responsibly. If you could benefit from financial education and support, a financial counselor might offer the help that you need.
The Bottom Line
These resolutions can be useful if you’re ready to press the reset button on your investment strategy for the New Year. However, the hardest part about making resolutions is sticking to them. To make sure that you stay on track, consider how they fit into your larger financial plan.