Personal financial planning is an ongoing process. Financially speaking, 2023 was another challenging year for many of us. The stock market was quite volatile this year, but ended the year near all-time highs, which is great for people who remained invested. Real estate prices around the country are teetering at their recent highs. And interest rates remained high for much of the year.
Hello 2024. No one knows how financially friendly this year will be. For that reason, here are ten prudent steps you can take to keep your personal finances moving on the right track:
- REset your retirement savings:Most people find it easier to max out their retirement contributions by budgeting a set amount each month. Instruct your employer to withhold $1,916.67 per month for your 401(k) or 403(b) plan to ensure that you hit the “salary deferral” max of $23,000 for 2024. Are you self-employed? If so, you can put away up to $69,000 this year into a SEP, Keogh or Solo 401(k), which equals $5,750 per month. And if you’ll be 50 or older by December 31st, the maximum 2024 contribution jumps to $30,500 for 401(k) and 403(b) salary deferrals and $76,500 for Solo 401(k)’s. Please also reset your salary to $345k which is the maximum salary for retirement plan contributions for 2024 if you’ll be maxing out the profit-sharing plan at your practice.
- REjoice if you have a low home mortgage rate: Mortgage interest rates remain near multi-year highs during 2023. For people who purchased a new home or refinanced an existing mortgage with extremely low rates available prior to 2022, please remember that while inflation helps your salary grow, the monthly payment for your fixed-rate mortgage remains constant over the term of the loan, making it easier to make your mortgage payments each month.
- REduce your personal debt: There is still relatively easy access to plenty of debt for most people. Remember, leverage equals risk. Make 2024 a year to pay down some of your personal debt. Perhaps you might also delay the purchase of a new car, scale down your awesome vacation, or settle for an 80-inch flat screen TV.
- REvise your savings and debt reduction goals: Take a few minutes to set (and also write down) new savings goals including how much you’d like to put away towards your retirement, a child’s education, and/or the down payment on a home, and also to reset how much you plan to pay down your student loans, personal debt, and home mortgage by the end of the year. (Please watch Alex Oliver’s recorded webinar on Game of Loans: Income Based Repayment Versus Refinancing.) or read Rick Schwartz’s article on the new Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan.)
- REbalance your investment portfolio:Warren Buffet said it best by stating, “A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.” During 2023, the stock market provided us with quite a roller coaster ride. By rebalancing your portfolio to its original or updated asset allocation, move money into sectors that underperformed and soon enough might be poised to catch up.
- REdiscover fixed income investments:Earn a guaranteed and risk-free 5.27% interest rate through April 2024 while also making your portfolio a little more conservative by purchasing I-Bonds, a special type of inflation protected treasury bond issued by the US government.
- REcalculate how much your retirement savings will be worth when you retire: With the market indexes creeping back to their all-time highs, now’s a great time to take a look at how much buying power you can expect to have upon retiring. (Please watch Alex Oliver’s recorded webinar on: How to FIRE: Strategies for Becoming Financially Independent and Retiring Early.)
- REvisit your life and disability insurance needs: Life and disability insurance needs change with the stages of your life and career. Give some thought to how much of these insurances you need going forward versus how much you currently get through your employer’s benefit package and any personal policies you’ve purchased.
- REview your overall health insurance costs: Consider switching to a qualified high deductible health insurance plan that allows you to contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA). HSAs provide for tax-deductible contributions AND tax-free withdrawals. The maximum contribution for 2024 increases to $4,150 for individuals and $8,300 for people with family plans. Anyone 55 or older can add an additional $1k. Many people with HSAs choose to let the money contributed into their account grow tax-deferred, and instead pay for their family’s healthcare costs out of their household checking account. (Please watch Alex Oliver’s 2/21/20 webinar on Health Savings Accounts.)
- REsolve errors on your credit report:Each year, you’re entitled to three free credit reports, so it’s worthwhile to look at this important financial report annually, especially since errors are not uncommon. Order your free report at annualcreditreport.com.
Invest some time now and plan ahead to make 2024 a great year financially for you.