GREAT FALLS — A New Year is here and many of us have made New Year’s resolutions. Among the list for many is improving finances.
As a certified financial planner with Edward Jones, Kelley Aline says this time of year one of the most common financial goals people should set is building a budget you can stick to.
“Setting up a budget helps you keep track of your income and expenses, allowing you to make better financial decisions and save more money,” said Aline. “That’s the first one, and that’s always nice to do as a household, a husband and wife planning together.”
Aline says it’s also a good time to set a goal of paying off debts, especially since rates may be higher than usual coming out of an interest rate hiking cycle.
“It’s a great time to go through and look at any of the outstanding debts people have. Credit cards, loans, and understand what they have for those interest rates, and consider paying down those highest interest rate debts first.”
One way to do that according to Aline, is by coming up with a debt payoff.
“If you decide to look at it from a high interest rate standpoint and you look at the highest yielding debt on there, and you attack that first and make minimum payments on your other ones next, then what you can do is when that debt is paid off, you take the payment you’re making on that and couple that on to the next payment or the next debt you want to attack.”
Aline says this strategy is a long-term plan and takes a lot of discipline but can be a great way to get ahead on interest rates.
For those who haven’t done so, Aline recommends building an emergency cash balance to be prepared for the unexpected.
“So, three to six months is what we recommend for clients for that emergency cash,” said Aline. “But it’s a good time to sit down and say, “Okay, do we have any trips coming up? Do we have any renovations in our house coming up? Where do we need to start putting that money into that emergency cash fund?”
She says the start of a new year is a good time to account balances, especially if there have been changes.
“You know, review those account titles, review the beneficiaries on those accounts, whether that’s your bank accounts, your investment accounts, your retirement accounts, your insurance, but also on your will and living trust,” said Aline.
When it comes to insurance, Aline says its good to make sure you’re appropriately covered for home, life and health.
With 2024 being an election year, Aline encourages investors not to let their emotions take over when playing the stock market.
While everyone’s financial situation varies, she urges common sense when planning ahead.
“Remember to set realistic and achievable goals,” said Aline. “Then throughout the year, make sure you’re going back and looking at those goals to see where you’re at and how far on track you are for those.”
Aline also encourages people to take advantage of Edward Jones’ free online financial fitness tool.