14 New Year’s Resolutions Financial Planners Are Making for 2020
You already know you need to spend less and save more—here's what you need to do it like a pro.
Advice you can actually use
Nearly every money expert is trying to get you to do two things: reduce spending and increase savings. Just because something is simple, however, doesn't mean it's easy—financial pros can have a tough time meeting their goals too. That's why we asked seven financial experts what they're resolving to do next year—and how they're going to accomplish it.
"I will commit to weekly money meetings with my wife"
If you share finances with a partner, your financial success depends on both of you agreeing on priorities. One way to make sure you and your spouse stay on the same page is to have weekly meetings. "I'm as guilty as anyone letting life get in the way of 'money meetings' between my wife and I. That will change starting in 2020," says Andy Garrison, MBA, CFP®, a senior wealth advisor at Mariner Wealth Advisors. "We've made an agreement together to sit down every Sunday evening after putting our daughter to bed and go through the past week's finances and look at what's to come in the week ahead," he says.
"I'm going to find new ways to save without depriving myself"
"Each year I like to drill down into one or two unique categories to see exactly what I'm spending and if there is anywhere I can save more," says Manisha Thakor, CFA, CFP®, a personal finance expert for Tally. Her category for 2020? Personal grooming. After looking at that category in her budget, she realized she was spending a lot of money on professional hair colouring, especially compared to necessary expenses like groceries. "I'm going to address this by switching from a salon to a nearby Aveda school and having their students do it for less than half the price of traditional stylists," she says.
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"I will take steps to protect myself against identity theft"
Thakor says she encourages people to be serious about protecting their identity—while not necessarily taking her own advice. "I've realized that old advice, like shredding credit card offers, is almost laughably basic considering the ingenuity of cybercriminals," she says. "These days you have to worry about things ranging from your sensitive information showing up on the dark web to malware being installed on your computer. So after much research, I've decided to test out LifeLock this coming year. It offers all of these services in one convenient package along with an insurance component that pays for the resolution and restoration of your identity in case of theft."
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"I'm going to put my money where my charitable mouth is"
Helping others is one of the top things people say they'd like to spend their money on, yet it's often easy to forget. To solve this problem, Genie Zeigler, a financial advisor and Senior Vice President with Merrill Lynch, has decided to work charitable giving into her budget for 2020, rather just relying on doing it when the opportunity presents itself. "I will decide on the total dollar amount that I wish to contribute to my favourite charities, divide that by twelve, and have it automatically deposited into a separate interest-bearing savings account each month," she explains.
"I'm going to update my will, power of attorney, health care proxy, and beneficiary documents"
Financial planning is more than just budgets and retirement accounts, Zeigler says. "Once I'd drafted my wills and trusts, I'd set them aside and forgot about them, but the reality is that these things need to be updated at least every five years," she explains. "The new year is the perfect time to reflect on my and my family's personal circumstances, and ensure that these legal documents are up-to-date."
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"I'm going to track all my daily expenses in an app"
Whether you're worried about cybercrime, privacy, or complicated technology, many people still prefer to track expenses the old-fashioned way, including Thakor. "I don't like the aggregator sites that require you to link all of your bank accounts so up until now, I've tracked all my expenses by writing them on a slip of paper in my wallet and then tallying up the papers once a month in an Excel spreadsheet," she says. But her method has a few flaws—what if she loses a scrap of paper or her spreadsheet gets deleted? This year, she's decided to try out an app, Expenses OK, that allows her to input daily expenses and track her budget in real-time without needing her bank information.
"I will plug the 'leaks' in my budget"
Everyone has little holes in their budget that "leak" money every month without you necessarily realizing it, Thakor says. "I love to savour a good book over a cup of artisanal third-wave coffee yet many of my financial peers rail against the horrors of the '$5 latte' and would say that's one of the first things I should cut," she says. "But in analyzing my budget, I realized that I am actually underspending in that key area of life given the enormous joy it brings me and thus found 'leaky funds' from my online streaming subscriptions—things that don't bring me as much joy—to allocate toward it."
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"I will make my retirement map"
Since you'll spend a significant chunk of your life in the retirement stage—life expectancies are nearing 100, after all—you don't just need a plan, you need a map, Zeigler says. "For me, this will start by listing my personal life priorities—family, career, home, travel, and philanthropy aspirations—and drawing up a financial roadmap that leads me to the future that my family and I want," she says. "I'll sit down and ask myself questions detailed questions including, 'Where do we want to live during retirement?' 'How much do we want to travel?' 'Will I work longer, or pursue a new passion project?' 'Will we consider going back to school?' then adjust my retirement plan accordingly."
"I'm going to finally have that difficult conversation with my parents about eldercare"
It's a difficult and often painful question: how will I take care of my aging parents? Avoiding that sensitive topic, however, is a huge mistake, according to Anna Colton, Consumer Banking & Investments Strategic Planning and Division Executive at Northeast, Bank of America. "In 2020, I will have conversations with my parents about their care as they age, even if it's hard," she says. "I will discuss their wishes, preferences, and finances, as well as my own, to figure out how I can help them. I will be careful to listen closely and be accommodating in helping them transition to this next phase of life."
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"I will exercise daily and eat more fruits and vegetables"
One of the best things you can do to take care of your finances is to take care of yourself. Medical and other costs associated with lifestyle illnesses can quickly eat up huge chunks of cash, jeopardizing your finances for the future, Colton says. "With retirement on the horizon and knowing healthcare costs can become unpredictable as we age, I want to take active steps in 2020 to keep my health a priority by eating well and staying active," she says.
"I am scheduling next year's meetings with my financial planner now"
It's true: Even finance experts need an outside eye to give advice, according to Colton. "I'm going to schedule routine meetings with my financial advisor for the upcoming year, now, so they're set on the calendar," she says. "For 2020, I'll spend the time during regular meetings with my financial advisor to seek guidance about my specific life priorities that include downsizing, ensuring I'm on track for my retirement goals, and contributing toward my parents' care. I'll also suggest to my daughters to do the same and talk with an advisor about the unique financial needs of 20-somethings."
"I'm going to pay off my student loans"
Rachel Kowalczyk, a director and senior wealth advisor Mariner Wealth Advisors, lives with student loan debt—something that's becoming more and more common as college prices skyrocket. But this represents a huge financial burden, especially for young adults just starting their careers. "In 2020, I plan to pay off the remainder of my student loans," she says. "I will calculate what I need to do and then adjust my automatic monthly payments in order to finally be free from student debt!"
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"I will save up first instead of buying things on credit"
Many people assume that if they're doing something expensive, like buying a new car, they'll have to use credit. (Not to mention all the lesser things we automatically use credit for, like eating out or buying clothing.) It's time all of us stop falling into that common credit card trap, says Lauren Anastasio, a certified financial planner at SoFi. "Historically, I would just buy something when I wanted it, and pay it off over time," she says. "This year I will budget for these purchases in advance and make sure my wants are only addressed after my needs."
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"I will get my six months worth of expenses in savings"
Having enough money in savings to cover six months of expenses is standard (and good) financial advice. After all, it's only a matter of time before you get hit with a job loss, a serious illness, or other life crisis. Still, just like the rest of us, not every financial pro has their emergency account all funded. So this year, Ben Watson, a CPA and personal finance expert with DollarSprout, is resolving to get his savings together. "To make sure I really do it, I'm going to set up an auto-payment from my checking to my emergency fund until I have at least six months of expenses covered," he says.
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