2020 was a year most of us would prefer to forget. When the year started, nobody expected natural disasters of historic proportion, the COVID-19 pandemic, global lock-downs, travel bans, school closures, or the resulting economic hardships that followed. But with the first year of the new decade officially behind us, how can we better prepare our finances for whatever 2021 may bring? Take these 8 financial vows to prepare for anything else this decade may throw at us.

Financial Vow #1: Thou Shalt… Establish an Emergency Fund

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s the importance of preparing for the unexpected. Establishing an emergency fund is crucial when it comes to being financially ready for medical emergencies, house repairs, car maintenance, etc.

Money tucked away in an emergency fund is meant to help cover the costs that are not part of your normal monthly expenses. Without an emergency fund, any unexpected event, even a small one, could set you back significantly. While you may not be able to put the same amount away every month, every little bit helps, and it’s important to put aside what you can.

If you are in or approaching retirement an emergency fund can also help reduce the stress put on your portfolio during times of volatility. You can shift the cash flow burden from your investments to your cash position until markets recover. Make to discuss this kind of strategy with your investment advisor, as no single strategy is right for every person or family.

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau recommends a few simple strategies for establishing and adding to your emergency fund:1

  • Create a savings habit
  • Manage your cash flow
  • Take advantage of any additional money coming in
  • Automate your savings

Create a Savings Habit

Try to be as consistent as possible when putting away money.

To turn your ability to save money into a regular habit, you could try:

  • Setting a specific goal for yourself and your savings
  • Creating a system for making consistent contributions
  • Monitoring your progress
  • Rewarding yourself for meeting your goals (within reason) before setting new ones

Manage your Cash Flow

Keep track of how and when money is coming in, as well as how much is going out.

Take Advantage of Additional Money Coming In

If you get a bonus at work or receive a monetary gift, consider putting that extra cash towards your emergency savings. This is a great time to either get ahead or catch up if you were not able to contribute as much as you would have liked another month.

Automate Your Savings

Establish automatic transfers through your bank, which will allow money to be directed to your savings account automatically each month. Choose an amount, pick a date each month and adjust as you need throughout the year.

Financial Vow #2: Thou Shalt… Save More Money

You’ve heard the phrase, “Every little bit counts,” all your life – but it couldn’t be more true. If you enjoy grabbing a coffee before work, start making a pot at home. If you go out to eat twice a week, cut down to once a week or every other week. Many of us are continuing to work from home, which cuts down on the need to buy as many clothes for work, which is another way to save.

While it’s an adjustment, these small “sacrifices” can yield significant results over time. Say you skip eating out one day a week, saving you around $20 on average. In the span of a year, that $20 becomes $1,040.

Financial Vow #3: Thou Shalt… Review Your Tax Situation

With tax season approaching, there are a couple of things you could consider doing now to maximize the financial impact of your tax refund. For example, you may find it more beneficial to have your refund split between paychecks throughout the year. To do this, you would need to adjust your tax withholdings with your employer. Perhaps Roth conversions make sense before the tax deadline that is rapidly approaching. Maybe it is more effective to make post tax contributions to your company retirement plan rather than pre-tax.

Now’s an ideal time to speak with your financial advisor, CPA or other financial professional to discuss what changes you should be making now to get the most out of your tax situation for the coming year, and subsequent years.

Financial Vow #4: Thou Shalt… Set Goals

Ask yourself what you want to accomplish in the months to come. Is there a certain amount you’d like to have tucked away in your savings? Or maybe you’re focused on getting a promotion at work? Whatever it may be, set a specific (and attainable) goal that you can focus on working towards in 2021.

Revisit your long term goals, are you still on track or are their adjustments that need to be made? Life shifts and changes constantly and your financial plan and goals need to reflect these changes.

In a world where we’re all recovering from economic and environmental hurdles, progress is worth celebrating – and worth pursuing.

Financial Vow #5: Thou Shalt… Start Automating

Automation is an incredibly effective tool when it comes to working toward and achieving your financial goals.

Some things to consider automating include:

  • Bill paying
  • Investments
  • Paychecks
  • Loans (Your mortgage, student loans, car payments, etc.)
  • Savings

Automating as much of your financial life as you can takes the human connection and decision-making out of the picture. It cuts down on late payments, and it can make contributing to your savings account hassle-free.

Financial Vow #6: Thou Shalt… Remember Your Retirement Savings

In terms of saving, 2020 had a different impact for everyone. Many lost their jobs, which impeded their ability to grow their retirement savings. For others, 2020 was an opportunity to sock more away than usual, since big expenses like vacations, concerts, weekend trips, etc. were canceled.

With enough stashed away in your emergency fund, 2021 may be the year to focus on padding your savings for retirement. If you have a 401(k), 403(b) or IRA, ask your financial advisor if you’re adding enough to it or if you should be upping your contributions each month. If you haven’t reached your contribution limits by the end of the year, consider making additional contributions – maybe from an end-of-year bonus or other additional income.

Financial Vow #7: Thou Shalt… Watch Out For Identity Theft

There has been a rise in identity theft during the coronavirus pandemic, meaning you need to remain vigilant in protecting your finances throughout 2021.

Some ways to avoid being a victim of fraud include:

  • Asking questions before sharing personal information with others
  • Creating complex passwords and changing them often
  • Keeping track of your mail
  • Reviewing all bank and credit card statements regularly
  • Monitoring your credit reports

We are all hoping for a better 2021, however, it’s always best to be prepared, especially when it comes to your finances. These seven tips should help with the transition into a new year – hopefully, all of us can breathe a little easier, save for the future and have some fun.

Financial Vow #8: Thou Shalt… Stay Disciplined to The Plan

2020 was an incredibly difficult year for a lot of investors as they saw the value of their hard earned money fluctuate wildly. This type of volatility causes us to make decisions that may not always be in our best interest but feel like the right thing to do at the time. Specifically, these types of decisions revolve around reducing equity exposure in your portfolio or not investing money that was earmarked to be invested prior.

For those that stuck to their plan and did not make major changes to their asset allocation or overall risk level of their portfolio, 2020 turned out to be a pretty good year. Unfortunately, there were many people that were not able to keep true during this difficult time and many of them have had a lack luster year at best.

The key to long term success is discipline and being able to ride the ups and downs. You can have the most lucrative investment strategy ever created but if it keeps you up at night then it probably isn’t right for you. If you were someone who made massive changes in 2020 or are thinking about it now, then the investment strategy you are in may not be best, and it may actually require long term fundamental changes.

If you think your strategy or plan needs changes or you just want a free check up feel free  to contact us here, we are always happy to help.

                               1. https://www.consumerfinance.gov/start-small-save-up/start-saving/an-essential-guide-to-building-an-emergency-fund/
The information contained on this page should not be considered investment advice but for general purposes only. This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Twenty Over Ten. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.If you would like to read our disclosures in more depth please click here.