Improving your finances is a top New Year’s resolution every year. Last year, 32% of Americans made the goal to spend less and save more. In addition to the typical “spend less and save more” resolution, we think there are several more financial New Year’s resolutions worth considering in 2021.
7. Enjoy yourself
Spend some money on yourself in 2021 (if you are saving what you should be saving for retirement). Go to your favorite restaurants, take that vacation that was canceled last year, and buy tickets to see your favorite sports team or musician. In 2020, many of us weren’t able to live normal lives, and realized for the first time how much we miss normal, everyday things – like seeing friends and family or eating at restaurants. In 2021, when it is safe to do so, take time to do everything you missed out on in 2020 if your budget allows for it.
6. Pay off high-interest debt
Almost half of all Americans carry credit card debt, and when you consider other types of high-interest debt, such as payday loans, rent-to-own, and certain student loans, that number climbs even higher. If you are carrying high-interest debt into 2021, work towards eliminating that debt as quickly as possible. Mathematically, it makes sense to pay down your debt with the highest interest rate first; however, some have found that paying off their smallest debts first gives them the psychological boost needed to pay off larger debts. No matter which method works best for you, getting rid of any high-interest debt is a great financial goal for 2021.
5. Grow your emergency fund
Nearly 70% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. 2020 showed us the value of having an adequate emergency fund, with the pandemic, stock market crash, and widespread job loss. Don’t let the next unexpected financial emergency catch you by surprise. If you don’t yet have an adequate emergency fund, spend 2021 building up your level of protection. For those still in the workforce, it normally makes sense to have around 3 to 6 months of expenses saved for a rainy day, depending on your job status and other sources of income. Retirees will want to keep around 18 to 36 months of expenses in cash, which becomes invaluable whenever there’s volatility in the market and you can withdraw from your cash reserves instead of your investment portfolio.
4. Update your beneficiaries
You should be regularly monitoring and updating beneficiaries as necessary, especially if you have recently experienced any major life changes. Updating beneficiaries is a quick and easy process with a great return on investment. For just 10 minutes of your time, you can potentially save hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars from going to someone you don’t want it to go to. If you have recently experienced death or divorce in the family, make sure your beneficiary information reflects your current wishes. If the information is inaccurate or outdated, retirement accounts or life insurance proceeds could end up in the hands of someone else.
3. Improve your credit score
You can be great with money without having a great credit score, but an excellent score is required to get the best rates on mortgages and auto loans. Your credit score could end up saving you tens of thousands of dollars (or more) over the long-term by helping you get better rates. So how do you improve your credit score? The most important factor is making debt payments on-time, and in full on credit cards. Some believe that carrying a credit card balance actually helps improve your credit score, but this simply isn’t true. For more information about how to improve your credit score, check out this blog post from last year: “How to Use Credit Cards Like a Pro.”
2. Eliminate your student loans
Nobody enjoys having student debt hanging over their head; unlike mortgage debt, your student loans don’t grow in value and provide shelter. Getting rid of, or at least paying down student loans is a financial resolution worth considering in 2021, but depending on your age and interest rate it may not make sense to accelerate repayment. If you are in your 20s and your loans are less than 6% interest, 5% in your 30s, or 4% in your 40s, you may be better off focusing on your Army of Dollar Bills before tackling those student loans. If you are 50 or over and have your own loans or those from a child, you should focus on paying them off as quickly as possible.
1. Give more to charity
Although the special $300 charitable deduction won’t be around next year, you should still donate more to charity if you are able. For those who are younger and might not have the extra income to give, donating your time can be just as valuable, if not more. Support the causes you believe in next year as we aim to make 2021 much better than 2020. For even more financial New Year’s resolutions you can implement in your own life, check out our latest show on YouTube below.