As we head into the new year, it’s time we give ourselves the best chance we can at financial wellness. Read our 10-step end of year money checklist to get your financials ready for 2022.
The start of a new year marks a great moment to implement some changes in your life. As you map out your larger goals or resolutions, carve some time to prepare your finances in the same way. Go through this 10-step checklist to set yourself up for less financial stress in the new year.
1. Review Your 2021 Spending
This exercise is about planning. An effective planning session requires us to look back on our patterns. To review your spending, we have three different options depending on the kind of information you have access to. The goal here is to understand where our money went and ask ourselves if those patterns aligned with our values and goals.
If you’ve tracked your spending through an app (think: apps like Cleo), your process will be simpler. All you have to do is retrieve your annual spending at a glance, which will break down all your spending into your pre-selected categories.
If you haven’t been using an app but are willing to invest more time into this step, download your statements from your bank accounts. Often, your banks will break your spending down into automatic categories (think, categories like: home, travel, shopping, health, etc,).
If you’re looking for a simpler step, you can take a more intutitve approach by creating some spending categories, doing a quick scan through statements in each of the last four quarters, and putting some percentages down according to spends per category. When you have a decent idea of where your money went, you’ll want to ask yourself:
- Do these patterns align with my values? My goals?
- Does anything here make me uncomfortable? Ashamed?
- Is this aligned with what I expect for next year spending?
2. Set 2022 Savings Goals
Any expenses you already know are coming? Think: a wedding you’re a bridesmaid for, your parents’ 25th anniversary, a trip you’re planning, a down-payment on a home. This is the time to map out any projected big expenses. What’s the dollar amount you expect? When are you expecting this expense to happen?
This is the time to even set a savings goal for the holidays!
The key thing we’re trying to do here is map out some savings sinking funds, which are savings funds or accounts you contribute to on a consistent basis. This process makes saving easier and lighter on your wallet, because it’s spread out over a period of time. The earlier you set your savings sinking fund, the more time you’ll have to reach your goal AKA, the less you’ll have to contribute each time.
3. Set Macro-Level 2022 Spend Goals
After you’ve set your savings goals (“pay yourself first” is the vibe we’re going for!), it’s time to set some general spending goals. To answer this question, you’ll need to go through checklist item #2. You’ll also need to have a general idea of your expected income.
- What is the dollar amount you need to have accessible for savings goals?
- What are your projected necessary expenses?
- What is your expected dollar amount in terms of income?
4. Revisit Emergency Fund
An emergency fund is an easily-accessible, cash-savings account that you use only in the case of emergencies. The definition of an emergency is unique to each of our situations.
If you don’t have an emergency fund yet, spend some time jotting down possible emergencies and their associated costs. This will help you land on a number that will act as your emergency fund savings goal. Some examples of emergencies that we have considered when shaping our own funds include:
- Car repair
- Home repair
- Flight ticket to see family based internationally
- 3-6+ months basic living expenses
If you already have an emergency fund, revisit the total amount you have in this fund. Did it get you through any emergencies that may have come up for you this year? Could you have used more? Is your emergency fund a little too “cushioned”?
5. Review & Plan Investment Accounts
The deadline to contribute for 2021 IRA isn’t until April 15, 2022. The deadline to contribute to your 401(k) and your FSA, however, is December 31, 2021. Is there extra cash you can contribute to either of these accounts? Plan that out.
You can also start planning your 2022 contributions. For example, if you want to max out your 401(k) for 2022 (which is $20,500), what’s your contribution schedule? Does your employer do employer-contributions based on your contribution or your salary?
If you want to max out your IRA, check your contribution limit and identify a contribution plan that fits with your expense requirements and savings goals.
6. Review Asset Allocation
No matter your age, it’s still a good habit to revisit your investment asset allocations on a regular basis. This means, analyzing how much of your portfolio (overall, taking into account all accounts) is invested in individual stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, or cash.
The questions you ask yourself when you start investing are also good questions to ask yourself as you revisit your asset allocation. What are your investing goals? What is your investing timeline? What’s the level or risk you’re comfortable with? How much energy are you willing to contribute to? Answering these questions will allow you to understand if your current asset allocation aligns with your goals.
7. Review End Of Year Workplace “Need-To-Spend” Money?
We’re talking things like FSAs, annual work from home stipends, or even PTO!
Some accounts, like FSAs, tend to have deadlines. Typically, it’s a December 31 deadline; however, given the continuation of COVID-19, many employers have extended the deadline well into 2022.
Workplace-unique stipends will have to be checked with HR. While we don’t want to call this “free money” (because you’ve worked for it!), you don’t want to leave any of this money on the table!
8. Get A Credit Report
Fraud has been increasing MASSIVELY over the course of the pandemic. Now more than ever, getting a credit report is a basic financial planning necessity. Through AnnualCreditReport.com, you can get a free credit report on a weekly basis, through April 2022. These reports are provided by the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, TransUnion.
When scanning your credit report, you want to check for any:
- Hard credit inquiries you did not authorize
- Credit accounts you did not sign up for
- Missed credit payments in error (ie you didn’t miss any payments but still seeing some narked as late or missing)
9. Adjust Tax Witholdings
If you had any big life changes over the last year, you may need to change your tax witholdings. Big changes in the eyes of the IRS include marriage, having kids, or buying a home, to name some of the main ones. Use the IRS tax witholding calculator to determine if you’re witholding the correct amount from your paychecks.
10. Listen to Episode 87 on Money Trauma
This is one of our most highly rated episodes for a reason! As first-generation women of color wealth-builders, we’re coming into this journey with a lot of financial baggage. We’re talking, ‘unhealthy relationship with money’ type of baggage. A crucial step of our wealth-building journey is to come to terms with the emotional relationship we have with money. As you start preparing your dinero for the next year, take some time to reflect on your relationship with money.
WANT TO KICKSTART YOUR FINANCIAL JOURNEY?
*This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. This helps us provide you with free content, like this blog! You can read my full disclaimer here: https://yoquierodineropodcast.com/policy