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New year, new you? Probably not.
One of the revelations likely to come in 2023 is that you are largely the same person you were last year. You suddenly don’t like running or taking vitamins.
But sometimes it’s good that things don’t change, and the fact that a lot of the money we’re supposed to make stays the same from one year to the next at least gives us more time to try to sort them out.
Here are the three most important steps to take now (and at the beginning of every year), say financial experts:
1. Update your budget
“The new year is an opportunity to reflect and start over,” said Brian Bender, president of Schwab Retirement Plan Services. “This should include your financial plan.”
Bender suggests making a list of all the big expenses you anticipate for the coming year, including a possible move, marriage or expensive vacation.
You want to factor these costs into your budget and be prepared for them, he said. Likewise, if you’re making a career change or expecting a promotion, you’ll want that reflected in your new budget.
To figure out how much you’re spending, look back at your purchases over the past couple of months, said Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet.
“From there, you can make an estimate of where you want to put the money,” Palmer said.
One helpful rule of thumb, she added, is a 50/30/20 budget, which allocates “50% of your take-home pay to needs, 30% to needs and 20% to savings and debt.”
2. Review your emergency savings
A solid emergency savings account is one of the best ways to sleep soundly at night, said Christina Guglielmetti, president of Future Perfect Planning in Brooklyn.
Guglielmetti said the amount of money people need varies, and the beginning of the year is the perfect time to assess how much is best for you.
To get started, you’ll usually want to calculate your main monthly expenses, including rent, food and utilities, and pet care, and then decide how many months you want to cover the account if you lose your job. (Of course, that money would also come in handy for a one-time emergency, like an unexpected car repair or medical bill.)
“It could be as low as one to three months, especially if there are other savings, the possibility of family support, or if one or both jobs are very stable,” Guglielmetti said. “Or it could go up to nine to 12 months if someone just prefers that kind of security.”
She recommends keeping the money in a high-yield savings account. You’ll just want to make sure that any account you put your savings into is FDIC-insured, meaning up to $250,000 of your deposit (per account holder, per bank) is protected against loss.
3. Make sure you’re on track for retirement
The start of a new year is the best time to review your retirement savings goals and make any necessary changes, experts say.
Some people may be able to take advantage of the increased annual contribution plan limits for 401k) workplace retirement plans ($22,500) and individual retirement accounts ($6,500), Guglielmetti said.
Employees aged 50 and over are eligible for additional contributions.
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However, even a small increase in your savings rate can be powerful, said Rita Assaf, vice president of retirement at Fidelity Investments.
Assaf gave an example: A 35-year-old earning $60,000 a year increasing his retirement savings by 1% (or less than $12 a week) could have an extra $110,000 at retirement, assuming annual earnings of 7 %.
“If you have access to a 401(k) with a company match, try to maintain at least your company match,” Assaf added. “If you don’t, it’s like leaving money on the table.”