The New Year has begun and many resolutions have already been abandoned. When we decide to make changes, it’s easy to think big, look 10 steps ahead and become overwhelmed. Sometimes this causes us to give up and make no changes at all. Start small. Two small, yet often overlooked or neglected, financial planning steps everyone can and should make is to start saving and address estate planning.
My biggest suggestion for the New Year is to put your savings on autopilot. Set up automatic savings from either your payroll or your checking account (401k contributions, straight to IRA, or emergency account).
Taking that first step is important. In 2015, the median household income was $55,775 or about $28 per hour, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Just $5 a day is equivalent to about 11 minutes per day toward your personal savings. Investing 10 to 30 minutes of your work per day for yourself is a worthwhile investment. After a few months you’ll adjust to the smaller amount deposited in your checking accounts and hardly miss what you are saving.
Plan for Tomorrow
The next important step you should take is to address your estate planning. This is an uncomfortable subject for many, I know. However, after having recent family experiences with Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, and now caring for a parent with ALS, I have a great appreciation for the importance of estate planning.
An easy first step is to simply review the beneficiaries listed on your IRA, 401k and life insurance policies. You can do this today in just a few minutes (check your files or look online). Are the people listed still appropriate? If not, make a change. A year ago, I found one small IRA that still listed my sisters as beneficiaries instead of my wife and children.
Always list a primary beneficiary and a contingent beneficiary. If you don’t, then your state’s intestacy laws could supersede your wishes. Next, talk with your advisor and make plans to have your will, power of attorney and possibly trust documents created or updated. Take the time to create your estate plan this year, and communicate it to others. Your loved ones will appreciate your diligence, and it can greatly simplify an already difficult time in their lives.