Well, if you’re like me, you will be thankful to make it through another holiday season, with at least most of your sanity left. For me, the holiday season started well before Thanksgiving and doesn’t really end until about the 5th of January, so it’s a long period of time. But as I see friends I know at the grocery store or at the gas station, the question I’ve heard the most in the past few weeks is, “what are your New Year’s resolutions?”
Usually I mumble something borderline incoherent, but it got me thinking. What are my resolutions for 2022? And do I really need to wait until the calendar turns to resolve to do something, which, at least on the surface, is a good idea for my well-being? But instead of telling you my resolutions, which I’m not sure many really care about, I thought it would be helpful to create a Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for you to think about, from the perspective of your financial advisor.
#10: Buy yourself a safe. And make sure it’s the kind that can withstand fire, flood and mischievous 2-year olds – Wal-Mart sells them for about $40. Then gather all your important documents and put them in your safe.
#9: Say no once a day when deciding what to eat. We all eat too much from time to time: we reach for the extra cookie or drink just one more beer or glop on one extra scoop of ice cream. Once a day, make a decision to say no to something you’re about to stuff in your face. Over the course of the year, it will add up.
#8: Fire a mutual fund portfolio manager. Assuming you are like most investors, you are probably invested in at least half a dozen mutual funds. And at least one of them deserves to be fired. Now it might not be the manager you’re firing, it might be the portfolio manager’s company. Maybe the manager was changed 3 times last year. Or maybe they just stink. But figure out which one is the worst, talk to your financial advisor, and fire one of them.
#7: Find something to do that will promote a healthy lifestyle. Doesn’t matter what it is – decide to run a 5K or join a virtual yoga class, get your cholesterol down or have an annual check-up. You can make the best investment decisions of all time, but if you can’t physically enjoy the results, what’s the point?
#6: Review all of your annual account statements and pay particular attention to your asset allocation. Notice I didn’t say, “make sure your current goals and situation are in line with your current investments.” I’m assuming if something has changed recently, then you already made changes to your asset allocation. I’m suggesting you review where you are today and make sure you understand your current investments and how they performed in 2021. Be informed.
#5: Write someone a letter. I actually think you should write at least 6 people letters, but you can start with one. Think of someone that made a difference in your life and write them a letter – not a phone call, not an email, not a text and not a card. A letter. Yes, that means you need to go to the Post Office, get a stamp and mail it too. And you probably need to pay attention to writing legibly.
#4: Review your insurance. This one drives me crazy because I see so many people that forget what kind of insurance they really have, don’t bundle their insurance policies and let things lapse. Spend a few hours gathering all your insurance information and figuring out where you might have gaps in coverage or redundant coverage. Then any money you save, send it to your retirement account.
#3: Make sure your estate planning documents are up to date. Estate planning documents are for everyone, not just the very wealthy. If you don’t have estate-planning documents, get them done. And the ones I want you to focus on are your will, power of attorney and health care directive. Some people use different names to describe the same documents, depending on which state you live in, but it’s important that you attend to these now rather than during a time of crisis.
#2: Spend two hours with your monthly bank statements and review your spending habits. I promise you will see some patterns emerge. Maybe you spend an average of $50/week on coffee. Or you realize that you have three different movie-streaming subscriptions and you didn’t know you had two of them. Or you’re paying for that online dating site but you’ve been married for almost 2 years (please make sure you tell your spouse, don’t try to hide anything, it’s a bad idea). The point is I bet you can find at least $100/month in frivolous spending. Then take that money and invest it in your future retirement.
#1: Do something for someone else. This one is so easy to do, but so difficult for me to recommend what’s right for you. It might be buying a cup of coffee for the person behind you at Dunkin’ Donuts. Or offering a word of thanks to the next police officer you see. The point is to be intentional about doing something for someone else. You’d be surprised how much it helps you. The other cool thing about doing something for someone else is it becomes addicting and encourages others to do the same. I call it the Circle of Life.
Well, I don’t know if any of these proposed resolutions help you with yours or not. Maybe one of them got you thinking. Maybe you’ll try to adopt the even-numbered ones. Or maybe it will spur you to make your own list.
Whatever the case, I want to wish you a very Happy New Year.