5 resolutions to make your money work more for you in 2016
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — With a new year comes a fresh opportunity to get your finances in order.
And thanks to Wall Street’s wild ride in 2015, more Americans plan to make financial resolutions, according to a recent Fidelity survey.
While the top two resolutions of “save more” and “spend less” seem pretty straight forward, they’re easier said than done.
“Give yourself a chance to succeed by making sure the goals are meaningful, specific and actionable,” said Neil Krishnaswamy, a certified financial planner at Exencial Wealth Advisors in Texas. “And set deadlines.”
Here are more money moves experts recommend adding to your resolution list:
1. Pay off debt
With the Federal Reserve raising interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade, 2016 is the year to commit to reducing consumer debt.
Many credit card interest rates are variable, which means the annual percentage rate (APR) will likely rise as the central bank continues to raise rates.
“Those debts are going to get more and more expensive as rates rise,” said Christopher Krell, a certified financial planner at Cassaday & Company.
If you have several outstanding debts, he recommended prioritizing in order of highest to lowest interest rates when making payments.
2. Create an emergency fund
Part of the “saving more” resolution should include putting money aside to cover unexpected expenses or to help make ends meets in the event of a job loss.
Experts recommend stashing away three to six months of costs. “Where in that range you fall depends on your personal situation,” said Stuart Ritter, senior financial planner and vice president of T. Rowe Price Investment Services. “If you are single and/or at a job that might be more at risk, you want to be at the higher end of that. If you are in a dual-income household … you can be in the smaller range.”
Be sure to keep the money easily accessible, like a savings or money market account, he added.
3. Increase your retirement savings
Experts generally recommend contributing at least 10% of your income into retirement accounts.
If you can’t quite swing that much, don’t worry, you don’t have to make the leap all at once. “Every three months, increase your contributions by 1% to 2%,” suggested Kimberly Foss, certified financial planner and founder of Empyrion Wealth Management.
4. Assess your investment strategy
It’s also a good idea to start the new year by taking stock of your investments and making sure they align with your goals and risk tolerance.
Make sure you know exactly what you’re invested in. Even if you chose an asset allocation when you first started investing, you should review and reallocate at least once a year to stay on track.
Krell said he recently worked with a couple who thought they were diversified only to realize the various mutual funds and ETFs they chose were all invested in the same stocks.
5. Review your insurance coverage
If 2015 brought major life changes like marriage, divorce or a child, it’s time to assess your insurance plans and beneficiaries.
Life insurance needs tend to increase when there are more dependents on your salary. “Make sure you have two times your salary,” said Krell.
Also review the beneficiaries of an insurance or retirement plan — they’re likely to change following a marriage or divorce.