With the first six months of 2022 in the rearview, you have valuable data at your disposal that can help you plan for a stronger second half and, even lay the groundwork for a better 2023.
To start – set concrete goals of what you hope to accomplish before the year is out – save more, get ahead of income taxes, reduce spending, save for college – and attach a number to that goal. By December 31 I will save $X in my retirement plan, I will reduce my monthly spending by $X per month, etc.
Here are tips on overcoming the challenges of some common, top financial goals:
Spending – It’s hard to reduce spending when the prices of routine basics like food and fuel are inflated. Keeping your fingers crossed and waiting for inflation to recede to more normal levels doesn’t help your situation here and now. A good budget is one that is flexible.
- Review your credit card and debit card statements to see how much more you are spending every month. This is not to anger you, but for you to shift your budget allocations, accordingly.
- If your “needs” are costing $300 more a month, then you must reduce your flexible spending to accommodate this change in circumstances.
- A look at your credit card statement and auto bill pay will reveal those sneaky recurring charges for services, gym memberships, subscriptions to magazines, cable services, etc. that you aren’t going to miss.
Saving – Look at your bank statement.
- Year-to-date, has more come in than gone out? If not, what is the deficit rate that is depleting your ability to save? Knowing that dollar amount might make it much easier to slash spending.
- Commit to building your cash reserves. Watching savings grow instead of dwindling is beneficial, psychologically. It gives you the control to establish your savings goals very specifically (in both dollar amount and timeframe to reach your goal).
- Establishing measurable goals is critical to creating and achieving a successful savings plan. Be specific about what you will save every month.
Investing – Look at your investment accounts – particularly your retirement accounts, which compound faster because these accounts are not taxed (taxes occur when withdrawals are made; and not even then, in the case of Roth accounts).
- If you have a 401(k) – find out what the match is and make sure you contribute at least that.
- For 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and 457 plans, the maximum annual contributions are $20,500 ($27,000 if you are 50 or older). December 31, 2022, is the deadline to fund this account for 2022.
- April 15, 2023, is the 2022 deadline to fund a Roth or Traditional IRA; contributions are limited to $6,000 ($7,000 for those 50 or older).
- Divide up the amount you want to contribute by the number of months remaining and set up a systematic investment plan (where the money goes in directly from your bank or paycheck every month). Then relax knowing that you are taking care of your investment goals (and might also be lowering your taxable income, in the case of the Traditional 401k, 403(b), 457, or Traditional IRA).
- These same prinicples apply to college savings. Set a dollar amount you want to contribute every month and use recurring automatic contributions to fund the account.
- With your investments, a scrupulous look at reducing investment fees will allow your accounts to compound at a faster rate.
Income – Increasing your income can come from many different sources.
- Negotiating a higher salary or obtaining training/certifications can increase your earning potential. Your employer may cover some of these expenses, but even if you must pay on your own – the benefits may quickly surpass the cash outlay.
- Is there a side hustle that can help you earn more, to bridge the cash flow gap – or to start the transition to a new career/business?
- Is there real estate you can rent out for a steady stream of income (real estate is a loose term, as that can mean something basic like a parking space/garage or room to rent).
Getting clear about your goals gives you six whole months to see progress. And these small wins can quiet the anxiety caused by inflation, a volatile stock market and other financial pressures. Most important, compounding these wins creates momentum as you head into 2023, making it that much easier to face whatever challenges lie ahead.