Five Financial Steps to Start the New Year Off Right

Dec 31, 2018

MoneyLife100As we enter 2019, are you happy with your financial situation? To address any financial challenges you’re facing and help improve your financial situation in the coming year, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) recommends asking yourself these questions: 

Is My Budgeting on Target? 

Tracking your monthly income and expenses is one of the most important things you can do to maintain control of your finances and successfully plan for the future. Seeing how much money comes in and how much goes out each month can help you identify opportunities to save additional funds, spot overspending, and identify ways to address it. Creating a budget (updating it weekly) and sticking to it are two very important things you can do for your finances in 2019. 

Am I Reducing My Debt? 

Aim first to whittle down your balances on high-interest loans, including credit card debt. Two steps can help you succeed: resolve to pay more than the minimum balances, which will help you pay off the debt sooner and can significantly reduce the amount of interest you pay over time; and use your budget to find ways to cut spending, which will make it easier to increase your monthly credit card payments. 

The AICPA’s 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy website has calculators to help understand how to most efficiently pay down your credit card debt.

Am I Saving Enough? 

Did you reach—or make progress toward—your savings goals in 2018? Retirement savings should be on everyone’s list. Make it easier by having retirement contributions deducted from your paycheck automatically and deposited into a retirement account. Having a fund set aside with six months of salary that you can count on in an emergency, such as loss of a job or a health emergency, should also be on your list. 

How Has My Tax Situation Changed? 

Important new tax law changes became effective in 2018. How will the new rates affect your wallet? Will other changes, such as limits on deductions for state and local income, sales, and property taxes make an impact? If you’re in the process of getting a divorce, are you aware of the new rules on alimony deductions? If you’re a business owner, what will new tax regulations mean for your business? Now is a good time to connect with your CPA to take stock of what the recent tax changes will mean for you and to plan for the future. 

Where Do I Want to Be a Year from Now? 

Flashing forward to December 2019 can help you better identify your near-term and long-term objectives. Would you like to have paid off all or most of your debt? Gotten a little closer to certain goals, such as funding a college education for your kids or a secure retirement for you and your spouse? Or would you like to have a little more money in the bank than you do now so you can take a dream vacation? Looking ahead and thinking about where you want to see yourself in the future is an important part of defining your next financial steps. 

Turn to Your CPA

No matter what financial questions you’re grappling with, your local CPA can help. To find a CPA in your area or for more financial tips, visit www.picpa.org/moneyandlife.
Get ready to have a great new year! 

About PICPA

The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) is a premiere statewide association of more than 22,000 members working in public accounting, industry, government, and education. Founded in 1897, the PICPA is the second-oldest state CPA organization in the United States.

Money & Life Tips are a joint effort of the AICPA and the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA), as part of the profession’s nationwide 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program.