Skip to main content

Tag: financial Goals

Twenty-Nine Things to Do on February 29th

It’s a leap year!  That means we have twenty-nine days to enjoy in February instead of the usual twenty-eight.  But the question is, what should we do with the extra day?  

Most people will probably treat the 29th like any other day.  But as financial advisors, we have a suggestion.  Why not use the extra day to do something that gets you closer to your financial goals?  

Need some ideas?  We’re happy to provide.  Here are twenty-nine things you can do on February 29th.  Of course, a few may not apply to you.  Some you may have already done.  But most are very simple, and all can make a difference in your financial health.  Our advice?  Pick just one or two of these and get them done.  You’ll be glad you did!

So, without further ado, here are:

Twenty-Nine Things to Do on February 29th

  1. Contribute to your IRA for 2019 if you haven’t already.  The maximum amount is $6,000, or $7,000 if you are over the age of 50.1
  2. Review your 401(k).  Are you contributing the full amount available – or at least enough to take advantage of any employer matching?  For 2020, the maximum contribution amount is $19,500.2
  3. Review the investments in your 401(k) account.  Read the prospectus for each fund if you haven’t already.  Ask yourself: Do you understand these investments?  Do you know why you’ve chosen them?  Are you certain they are right for you?
  4. Ask an outside professional for a second opinion on your 401(k).
  5. Ask a CPA to review whether you can make your 401(k) more tax efficient.  
  6. Review your monthly expenses.  Is there anything you can eliminate?  For example, do you really need Hulu and Netflix when you only use one?
  7. Review your New Year’s resolutions.  Are you doing what you need to do to achieve them?  
  8. Review your long-term goals.  Do you feel like you are on track to reaching them, or do they seem further away than ever?
  9. Review your various insurance policies.  Have any expired?  Are there gaps in your coverage?  
  10. Review your Will to make sure it’s up to date, especially in terms of who your beneficiaries are.  
  11. Name contingent beneficiaries on your Will if you haven’t done so already.  
  12. Review your Power of Attorney to make sure it is up to date.
  13. Review your Advanced Medical Directives to make sure they are up to date.  
  14. Conduct a household inventory.  Make a list of your possessions and document them with photos.  This can be invaluable if you ever need to file an insurance claim.  Keep one copy at home, and another in a separate, secure location, like a bank safety deposit box.  
  15. Make sure you know where each of the documents mentioned above are located.  Then, have a conversation with your family so that they know where to find them, too.
  16. Consider purchasing a high quality, fireproof safe to store your important documents in.
  17. Start a rainy-day fund for unexpected expenses or emergencies.  Ideally, your fund should have enough to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses.  
  18. Consider signing up for an automatic savings plan, where a fixed amount of your income is automatically deposited into your account every month.
  19. Consider signing up for any automatic bill-pay and direct deposit services available to you.  They can make managing your cashflow much simpler and easier.  
  20. Balance your checkbook if you still write checks by hand!
  21. Create a Disaster Preparedness Kit for your home.*  While it may not seem like this has anything to do with finance, it does.  Should a natural disaster ever happen, the safer and more prepared you are, the less financially impacted you will be.  
  22. Create a plan for what to do in the event of a disaster and share it with your family.  
  23. Choose an out-of-town emergency contact.
  24. Share your emergency contact information with any financial professionals you work with, so they can always get in touch with you during a crisis.  
  25. If you haven’t already, get started on your taxes!  
  26. If you haven’t already, learn your Full Retirement Age.**  This is the age at which you can claim Social Security benefits without any reduction.
  27. Make a list of your top retirement concerns and questions.  Speak with a professional to get the answers and solutions you need.     
  28. Create or update your bucket list!  What do you dream of doing in life?  Where do you dream of going?  Write it all down, and then post it where you can see it every day.  Why?  Because a dream in your head is just a fantasy.  But a dream on paper is the beginning of a plan.
  29. As soon as you’re done with whatever you decided to do, go treat yourself.  It’s Saturday night!

*For more information on building a Disaster Preparedness Kit, visit www.ready.gov/kit

**To learn your Full Retirement Age, visit: https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/retirechart.html

1 “Traditional and Roth IRAs,” Internal Revenue Service, https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/traditional-and-roth-iras

2 “401(k) contribution limit increases,” Internal Revenue Service, https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/401k-contribution-limit-increases-to-19500-for-2020-catch-up-limit-rises-to-6500

Aesop on Finance: A Dog and His Reflection

As you know, this is a time of year when many people make New Year’s resolutions.  Lose weight, stop smoking, save more, learn a new skill, get more sleep, visit a new place, get finances in order, etc.  You name it, chances are, someone has resolved to do it.

As financial advisors, people often come to us for help with any financial resolutions they have – or resolutions that require some change in their financial situation to achieve.  But often, people come onlyafter they have tried and failed to keep those same resolutions on their own.  

This got us thinking: Why are New Year’s resolutions so hard to keep?  In most cases, our resolutions are good for us.  We want to do them.  So why aren’t they easier?

There are many reasons for this, but one of the most important can be best explained by Aesop’s classic fable about…

A Dog and His Reflection

It happened that a Dog, after much hunger and long labor, had finally procured for himself a chunk of meat, and was carrying it home in his mouth to eat in peace.  On his way home, the Dog had to cross a fallen tree trunk lying across a running brook.  As he crossed, he looked down and saw his own reflection in the water beneath.  Thinking it was another dog with an equally large piece of meat, he made up his mind to have that also.  So, he snapped at the reflection in the water.  But as he opened his mouth, his own meat slipped out, fell into the brook, and was never seen by the Dog again.      

While some have interpreted this fable to be a warning against greed, we look at it a little differently.  Despite being halfway to his goal – enjoying a nice meal – the Dog became distracted by a different goal, and in pursuing that, lost sight of his own.  

In our experience, this happens to most of us every year.  We set a goal we want to achieve, something we truly care about.  But it takes time to accomplish our resolutions, and it’s very easy to get distracted by the newest, shiniest things.  For example, imagine someone resolves to save $200 per week, so that they can finally take that trip to the Caribbean they’ve always dreamed of.  But after doing this for three months, they see another person enjoying the latest iPhone that came out, so they decide to go for that instead.  After all, the Caribbean will always be there.  So, they spend all the money they’ve saved – and suddenly, they’ve sabotaged their own resolution.  

This happens on a larger scale, too.  We’ve seen people who dream of a retirement spent in the sun…only to go chasing shadows instead.  We’ve seen people with grand plans to start their own business one day…only to spend their time watching television.  

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with buying a new iPhone or relaxing in front of the TV.  But to truly change our lives for the better, we must learn discipline.  We must hold ourselves accountable.  We must keep our eye on what’s truly important, and not be distracted by reflections. 

There are several ways we can do that.  Here are a few we’ve found to be especially helpful:

  1. Be specific with your resolutions. People who set specific goals are more likely to achieve them.  For example, instead of resolving to save money, resolve to save $200 per week.  
  2. Put it in writing.  Write down your resolutions and post them in a place where you will see them every day.  This will help remind you of what you’re working towards, so you won’t end up like the Dog in the fable.  
  3. Set realistic goals.  Set goals that are within your reach, and don’t try to take on too much at once.  Be mindful of your finances and schedule.  Account for the fact that sometimes, you need to kick back and relax or spend money on a whim.  In addition, take your time.  There’s no prize for finishing first, and anyway, to quote another one of Aesop’s fables, slow and steady wins the race.  
  4. Develop a plan.  This is so important.  Create a timeline with steps toward your goal.  Set deadlines for each and cross them off as you go.  This will help you generate both the momentum and themotivation you need to continue.
  5. Ask for help.  Whether it’s with a financial professional or a life coach, if you find yourself struggling to reach your goals, don’t think you need to do it alone!  Find someone who can help keep you focused and accountable.
  6. Reward yourself.  Acknowledge even the smallest of achievements. Keeping resolutions is hard work, and you should be proud of everything you accomplish!  

Regardless of what you do, always remember The Dog and His Reflection.  It can make all the difference.  

Good luck and have a wonderful year!