Many of us take time at the beginning of the new year to make resolutions. Some revolve around diet and exercise, some around relationships, work-life, and productivity. Others may be financial goals, legal plans, or organizational resolutions. In all cases, it is easy to set the goals but more difficult to stick with them and see them through. What resolutions did you make and how will you hold yourself accountable? Sometimes you need tools or other people to assist you in accountability and in reaching these goals. Here are some examples of important financial, legal, and organizational goals we think are important.
1. Understanding your financial health. Do you know your own net worth? Do you track your income and investments regularly? How closely do you watch your expenses? Do you know how much you have spent on take out this year? (Maybe it’s better not to know!) Before you can set a goal for savings, you need to understand your own position. Working with a qualified Financial Adviser, using financial software, and setting a budget are all important pieces to put you on track.
2. Be prepared legally for emergencies and the future. Do you have a Will, a Trust, a Power of Attorney (POA) for Healthcare and for Property, and a Living Will? If yes, when was the last time you reviewed these documents? If the pandemic has taught us nothing else ( I do hope we have all learned many lessons!), you should have realized that we can all end up in the hospital no matter our age. It’s important to have your legal documents completed and to be sure that someone knows where to find them. It’s also important to have difficult conversations with the people you trust so they know your wishes in case anything should happen.
3. Get your paperwork organized. Do you have stacks of paper on your desk? Is it difficult to keep up with all the mail that arrives in your home each day? Do some of your bills get lost in the stacks and end up being paid late? Resolve to use less paper! Each bill you receive has an option on it to change it to electronic delivery. It can be scary to think your bills might get lost in your email inbox. Start a separate email account that you use only for electronic bills. Check it daily. It will be easy to find any statement you need by searching your inbox. Invest in a scanner or install a scanning application on your smartphone. Use a secure file storage system in the cloud and keep all your documents in organized folders there. Shred the paper! Check your postal mail daily. If you are sure something is junk, throw it directly into the trash. Don’t save it, don’t even open it. If you are not sure, open and decide if you really need it or not immediately. Don’t save it for later. Enjoy a clear desk, make more room in your file drawers!
4. Prepare your taxes in advance, approach the April 15 deadline with a sense of calm. Start a tax folder now – either on your desk or in the cloud. As your tax documents arrive, place them in the folder. If you have committed to going digital, immediately scan them, save them in your 2020 tax folder and shred the paper. Review the tax packet your accountant sent you or look at last year’s tax return. Make a list of the documents you need and check them off as they arrive. At the beginning of February start tracking down anything you are missing. Call your accountant with any questions you may have early.
Don’t wait until April 1 to start reviewing and tracking things down. Once you have everything organized in one place, turn it over to your accountant. You can upload all of your digital documents to the firm’s secure portal, drop them off at their office, or send them through priority mail. Set a date in March to have this all done. Remind yourself to enjoy April 15 because you will be all done!
Hold yourself accountable for these resolutions.
1. Make a checklist with each step you need to take to reach these goals. Set realistic dates for completion. Look at this list every day. Put reminders in your phone to help you remember when you need to work on your checklist tasks.
2. Use your calendar as a tool. Schedule time each week to work on your financial, legal, and organizational tasks. Keep these appointments with yourself!
3. Surround yourself with qualified professionals. It’s important to have an attorney, financial adviser, and an accountant. If some of these tasks seem daunting a Daily Money Manager can help you accomplish them and keep on track. Set times in advance for check-in phone calls with these professionals.
4. Enjoy checking off tasks on your list and be sure to celebrate your accomplishments.
About the Author: Jackie Melinger
The youngest of three daughters, Jackie grew up in Skokie, IL, with the support and love of her parents, who were themselves, successful entrepreneurs and small business owners. They instilled great confidence, independence, and strength in Jackie, who attended the University of Illinois. There she met Michael Melinger, and the two quickly discovered that they would make a great team. Together they are fortunate to be parents to three busy daughters. Jackie also helped to care for her parents for many years, when they were no longer able to care for themselves. She has also been a devoted volunteer in her children’s schools and at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park. Working as a team, Jackie and Michael have built a successful eldercare business and were thrilled to acquire The Sprau Advocate Group (now known as My Personal Bookkeeper, Inc.) in October of 2018. Jackie met Kathy Sprau, founder of The Sprau Advocate Group, LLC, in 2003 and was quickly impressed with Kathy’s business model. Jackie was assisting her own parents with the demands of their healthcare paperwork, long-term care insurance, bill paying, and daily household management needs at the time, and understood firsthand the value Kathy’s service brought to others. Jackie has always managed the finances for her businesses as well as her household, and she has helped numerous family members and others with their budgeting and organization.