In the spirit of the holiday season, here is a list of early New Year's resolutions and fun things to do in 2012!
- Remember, cash flow (income versus expenses) is the key to long-term financial success. If you are gainfully employed, you should be saving 15% to 25% of your income. If you are retired or not fully employed and are drawing on your investment portfolio, your total annual withdrawals should be 3% to 5% of your portfolio value or less. If your savings rate is low or withdrawal rate high, take steps to increase your employment income or reduce your expenses.
- Insurance is the foundation of sound financial planning. Home and auto insurance, umbrella liability coverage, health insurance, life insurance, disability and long-term-care insurance all require regular review and updating. Consider funding a Health Savings Account (HSA). If you own or are considering long-term-care insurance, pay particular attention to and understand the inflation protection options.
- In 2011, we've seen renewed volatility in stock market prices. Investors are still bruised from the 2008 global financial crises and pessimism is pervasive. Remember that the stock market is a leading indicator and will turn up before business, consumer and investor attitudes improve. Bond interest rates remain low and pose a challenge for achieving reasonable long-term returns. Broad diversification will be well rewarded and realistic expectations for long-term returns (mid to high single digits) are a must.
- Are there any family or personal changes that might prompt a review of your beneficiary designations on life insurance policies (both employer provided and individually owned), IRA accounts and employer retirement plans? Were there any changes in employer plans wherein correct beneficiary designations should be confirmed? How about a power of attorney, will or trust documents? Are there changes of address or telephone numbers for people listed in your healthcare power of attorney document?
- Do your children or grandchildren have employment income that could be used for a Roth or traditional IRA contribution? If applicable, have you funded 529 college savings plans for the calendar year for your children or grandchildren?
- Do your family members know where to locate important personal financial papers and how to contact your professional advisors in case of an emergency?
Have a safe and happy holiday season. Take good care of yourself. Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year in 2012!
About Bruce J. Berno, CFP®