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New year, new you? Probably not.
One of the revelations that will likely come in 2023 is that you’re largely the same person as last year. You don’t suddenly love running or taking vitamins.
But sometimes it’s good when things don’t change, and the fact that many of the money moves we should be taking remain the same from one year to the next at least gives us more times to try to get them right.
Here are three of the most important actions to take now (and at the start of every year), financial experts say:
1. Update your budget
“The new year is a chance to reflect and start fresh,” said Brian Bender, head of Schwab Retirement Plan Services. “That should include your financial plan.”
Bender recommends making a list of any big expenses you anticipate for the coming year, including a possible move, marriage or pricey vacation.
You want to factor these costs into your budget and be prepared for them, he said. Similarly, if you’re making a career change or expecting a raise at work, you’ll want your new budget to reflect it.
To get an understanding of how much you spend, look back at your purchases over the last couple of months, said Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet.
“From there, you can create a ballpark estimate of where you want your money to go,” Palmer said.
One helpful rule of thumb, she added, is the 50/30/20 budget, which allocates “50% of your take-home pay toward needs, 30% toward wants and 20% toward savings and debt.”
2. Review your emergency savings
Having a solid emergency savings account is one of the best ways to sleep soundly at night, said Cristina Guglielmetti, president of Future Perfect Planning in Brooklyn.
The amount of money people need salted away varies, Guglielmetti said, and the start of the year is the perfect time to assess how much is best for you.
To begin, you’ll typically want to calculate your key monthly expenses, including rent, food and utilities and pet care, and then decide on a number of months you want the account to be able to cover should you lose your job. (Of course, that money would also come in handy for a one-time emergency such as an unexpected car repair or a medical bill.)
“It could be low, like one to three months, especially if there are other pools of savings to pull from, the possibility of family support or if one or both jobs is very stable,” Guglielmetti said. “Or, it can go as high as nine to 12 months if someone just prefers that kind of safety.”
She recommends keeping the cash in a high-yield savings account. You’ll just want to make sure any account you put your savings in is FDIC insured, which means up to $250,000 of your deposit (per accountholder, per bank) is protected from loss.
3. Make sure you’re on track for retirement
The start of a new year is the best time to check in with your retirement savings goals and to make any needed changes, experts say.
Some people may be able to take advantage of the increased annual contribution plan limits for 401(k) workplace retirement plans ($22,500) and individual retirement accounts ($6,500), Guglielmetti said.
Workers age 50 and older can qualify to make additional “catch up” contributions.
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Yet even a small increase in your savings rate can be powerful, said Rita Assaf, vice president of retirement with Fidelity Investments.
Assaf provided an example: For someone 35 who is making $60,000 a year, upping their retirement saving contribution by 1% (or less than $12 a week), could generate an additional $110,000 by retirement, assuming a 7% annual return.
“If you have access to a 401(k) with a company match, try to save to at least your company match level,” Assaf added. “If you don’t, it’s like leaving free money on the table.”
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