Financial Resolutions for 2013

From the good folks at Fidelity, here is an excerpt of their suggestions for 2013:

A month-to-month guide for helping you keep your financial resolutions in 2013.

The shift to thrift

This year, 52% of Americans listed “saving more money” as their top financial resolution, versus 46% last year. Paying off debt (19%) and spending less (19%) came in second and third, according to the study.

This new frugality may come as no surprise, given the weak economic recovery. Of those surveyed, 26% say they are in worse financial shape than this time last year; 17% say they’re deeper in debt. But that doesn’t make sticking to financial resolutions easy: 38% consider them harder than other resolutions—like dieting or quitting smoking—up from 30% in 2009.

Perhaps more surprising, consumers are making progress on their financial resolutions. Around 46% say they achieved more than 80% of their top financial resolution last year; 88% say they made some progress.

Now what about 2013?

January: Create a budget

Creating a budget and sticking to it is very important. Doing so can help you find more money to save, pay down debt or give to charity.  Don’t forget to build a liquid emergency fund of three to six months’ salary to cover expenses in a pinch.

February: Focus on retirement

Retirement is not what it used to be—long gone are the days comfortable pensions.  Most of the responsibility for managing your retirement is on you!

Make sure you save as much as possible.

March: Organize your taxes

If you haven’t done it already (you’ve been procrastinating, haven’t you?), gather up all your paperwork, W-2 forms, and receipts and start preparing your 2012 taxes. The more organized you are, the better.

April: Contribute to or open an IRA

If you don’t have one, consider opening an IRA. You can open a Roth or regular IRA or contribute to an existing one, up until April 15, potentially reducing your 2012 taxable income, subject to phaseouts based on income. There are contribution limits to be aware of –  IRA contribution limit for 2012 is $5,000 ($6,000 for those 50 and older).

May: Revisit your college savings plan

If you have children, consider starting or adding to a 529 college savings plan. The contribution limits are high, there are no income restrictions, and your savings grow tax deferred.  You can withdraw the money federal income tax free as long as you spend it on qualified higher education expenses.

June: Review and update beneficiaries

Make sure your beneficiaries are up to date on your life insurance policy(ies), retirement accounts, bank accounts, real estate deeds, etc.  While you’re at it – check and update your will or trust, if necessary.

July: Give your investments a mid-year checkup

Make sure you check your portfolio’s investment/asset mix and revise if necessary.

Review that budget you made in January; revise if necessary.

August: Pay down credit card debt

Consider paying down high credit card debt. Borrowing money for things you can’t afford usually gets you into trouble over the long term. Save Smart!  Spend Smart!

September: Consolidate your accounts

If you have accounts at multiple financial institutions consider consolidating them at on institution.  Do this for the simplicity, convenience and other potential benefits.

October: Start year-end tax planning

Look at your investments – gains & losses, portfolio composition, think about contributions to tax-advantaged accounts.  Make sure you look at other tax benefits such as education and energy efficiency credits.

November: Review health and workplace benefits

This is often the time when companies offer open enrollment for health and life insurance plans. Make sure you review all of your coverage and benefits options to see if they are still meeting your needs. Check your auto, homeowners/renters and life policies while you’re at it.

December: Consider giving to charity

Don’t forget those end of year charitable deductions!  You can contribute cash, tangible goods and even securities.

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