Financial Planning

Make 2016 a Financially Fantastic Year

It’s hard to believe a new year is almost upon us.  As 2015 draws to a close, now is a great time to step back, look at what you did–or didn’t do—with your money and make any necessary changes to make the most of your money before we official say goodbye to 2015.

Preparing for 2016 is as easy as 1-2-3:

  • Close out this year on the right foot.
  • Evaluate 2015 and take stock of what you accomplished (as well as what you might have fallen short on).
  • Create a plan for getting financially ready for the next 12 months.

Make a Few Last-Minute Money Moves

There’s still time to make some smart financial choices before December 31. Here are some quick and easy moves to make before the ball drops:

  • Use money in your FSA. If you have an FSA, or flexible spending account, you need to make sure you use up the funds in the account before the New Year. This money won’t roll over, so it’s use it or lose it! Schedule that dentist appointment, stock your medicine cabinet with over-the-counter medications that FSAs will cover or upgrade your specs if you use prescription lenses.
  • Make charitable donations. It is the season of giving, and you can give to those in need while reducing your own tax bill in the process. Make any last minute charitable donations or contributions to nonprofits and hang on to that paperwork. You’ll need it to take tax deductions come April.
  • Max out your retirement accounts. If you received a holiday bonus or cash gift, consider using that extra money that you normally don’t have in your monthly budget to max out your 401(k), Roth IRA, or other retirement account. Check your 401K balance, if you are under 50 years old you can contribute as much as $18,000 this year so make that money count!
  • Review your financial management tools.  If you’re using tools like Mint to help you budget and track spending, make sure all your information is up-to-date.  And if you’re not using any tools to help manage your money, now would be a great time to start so you have a clear financial picture of the next 12 months.

Take a Look at the Big Picture

You can’t plot a course to the place you aspire to get to if you don’t know where you’re starting from. The same is true with your finances.

Take some time to look at what you accomplished in 2015. Did you achieve your goals, eliminate debt or boost savings?

And if you stumbled with your finances, that’s ok too.  The important thing is to identify what took you off-course with your money and get back on track. Did you lack organization? Miss payments?  Were there circumstances outside of your control such as job loss or medical emergency?

These are all important factors in getting on the right track moving forward. If you can identify why 2015 didn’t shape up the way you wanted, you’re in a better position to make adjustments for the year ahead.

Plan for a Financially Successful 2016

Money is much more than just numbers and math. Personal finance is about how you feel and behave with money. It can be more important than what you know to be logically true. .

People have all kinds of money scripts, and it’s important to understand your own. Recognize what stories you’re telling yourself that could hold you back financially and keep you from achieving your dreams in 2016. Remember, every penny counts!

Then make a plan. Here are some ways to get there:

  • Set clear goals.  Is 2016 the year you finally kick your debt to the curb once and for all? Or maybe you’re ready to really jump into investing to build long-term wealth. Whatever you want to do with your money, write it down!
  • Prioritize. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Choose one to three big goals you want to focus on for 2016.
  • Make everything bite-sized. Break down each goal into smaller pieces so it’s more manageable. Consider writing out a specific, actionable to-do for each month that will get you one step closer to success.
  • Place deadlines on everything. Goals without deadlines are just dreams! Choose a time when each goal will be reached. Put due dates on each bite-sized task, too.
  • Find someone to hold you accountable. Be brave enough to share your goal with someone else, and then ask them to help hold you accountable. You can hold them accountable to their goals, too. Check in periodically, offer support, and encourage each other to do the hard work required to reach the success you both want.

By following this three-step process, you’ll be able to finish out 2015 strong — and be ready to jump straight into 2016 with confidence that you can reach financial success.

Kali Hawlk is a freelance writer and the co-founder of Off The Rails, a free mentorship platform for creative women. She’s passionate about helping others do more with their money, their work, and their lives. Get in touch by tweeting @KaliHawlk.