Money moves for the new year

Money moves for the new year

A new year, a new you. That’s the plan, right? Easier said than done. This year, I’m offering 20 resolution ideas that alone typically wouldn’t make your New Year’s list. However, they’re all fairly simple, and the momentum created by knocking out a few could pay big dividends as you work to strengthen your personal finances. 

Set up an appointment with your attorney. It’s probably been too long (or never) since you reviewed and updated your wills, powers of attorney and the rest of your plan. Make the call.

Review your investment portfolio. Unless something changes between now and when you’re reading this, we’ve been on a 10+ year run. Is your investment portfolio still in sync, or is it time to rebalance or reallocate? 

Cut what you pay for utilities. I haven’t cut the cable yet, but one call threatening to do so saved me about $50 per month. See if there’s an opportunity to save on your cellphone, cable or other recurring bills so you can redeploy that money elsewhere.  

Review auto drafts. Sit down with your partner (and children?), credit card and bank statements in hand, and validate all the automatic drafts and charges. 

Consolidate retirement accounts. Gathering far-flung IRAs and retirement plans from former employers to get a better view of what you have and where you stand.

Take a retirement snapshot. What’s your number? Are you on track? Talk to your financial planner or use an online calculator to see where you stand, and make necessary adjustments (save more/spend less).

Review your goals. A new year provides an opportunity to recommit to your short-, medium- and long-term goals. If you don’t have them, now’s your chance.  

Set up savings account No. 1: emergency fund. Life happens; be prepared.

Set up savings account No. 2: house fund. Having cash on hand for house repairs, upgrades or catastrophes is critical.

Set up savings account No. 3: vacation fund. We need more vacation ... without racking up debt. Start saving today for your next getaway.

Set up savings account No. 4: gift fund. If you are suffering a debt hangover from the holiday season, start stashing money now so you’ll be a cash buyer next year.

Implement a spending cap. This can keep you and your partner on the same page. Agree that any spending greater than $100, $200 or whatever number is appropriate requires consultation.

Check out Social Security. If you haven’t already, set up a My Social Security account at to keep track of your benefits.

Boost your retirement plan contribution. This is easy if you’re receiving a pay raise, but bumping it up a percentage point or two can make a big difference down the road.

Take advantage of catch-up contributions. The IRS allows those 50 and older to contribute an extra $1,000 (IRAs) or $6,000 (employer plans). Use the catch-up to catch up.

Become a cash buyer for a week. Put the plastic away for a week and use cash only. This can be eye-opening.

Get rid of dead weight. Comb through your closets, garage and storage, and jettison the stuff you’re not using. This could mean extra income, a charitable deduction and less clutter.

Check insurance rates. Often insurance becomes a set-and-forget, or more appropriately pay-and-forget, proposition. Get some quotes and determine if you’re paying too much.

Review insurance. Do you have coverage you no longer need, the right amount of coverage or gaps? A quick call to your insurance providers could reveal savings or gaps.

Money talk. Discuss your overall financial plan with your partner. Too often, one or the other has all the knowledge – and a shorter life expectancy.

J.J. Montanaro is a certified financial planner with USAA, The American Legion’s preferred provider of financial services. Submit questions for him online.