I’m not a big fan of New Year resolutions. That’s because they’re often made while under the influence of more than a few champagnes and generally evaporate with the onset of the next day’s hangover.
I am, however, a fan of New Financial Year resolutions. Perhaps it’s because we’re not only sober by July, we’re often a lot more serious. We know we’re halfway into the year and we figure if we don’t do something now then we’re going to arrive at the end of the year either in the same position or, God forbid, a worse position than the one we started.
That’s why I think New Financial Year resolutions are the #getsh!tdone of resolutions because, usually, we mean business. We’ve put on our business socks and we’ve decided it’s time to stop talking about getting busy and actually do something about it.
The question is, what should you be making New Year financial resolutions about?
Below are seven common money problems. I recommend you pick the one that most applies to you and create a plan around what you’re going to achieve this year – to think, talk, plan and then of course, do.
1. If you’re in a relationship
If you haven’t had “the money talk” with your partner yet then decide this is the week you’re going to do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re six months or six years in, if money is something you’re not great at talking about then make this the year you’re going to move on to the same page.
Start with what you both have, what you both owe and what you both want to achieve. If something is a surprise, talk through how you’re going to deal with it together. Once you’ve chosen your money goals, decide how you’re going to make those things happen. Together.
2. If you were hopeless with your taxes last year
Start the financial year on the right foot by deciding to be super organised with this year’s taxes. Before July is over, find a great accountant and organise your taxes early so you’re already ahead of the game.
Then while you’re there, ask your accountant for tips on how to handle your affairs better this year. It might include paying for all your expenses on the one credit card so it’s easy to locate your deductions or simply being more aware of what you can claim.
3. If you have no idea where your money is going
Set up a free cloud solution like those on the Money Smart website or, for a small monthly fee, look at Xero and start allocating your expenses so you know where your money is going.
Until you know what you have to work with and where you are overspending you can’t do anything about it so decide to spend your first couple of months on this. Then set some goals, add a budget and decide to become a conscious consumer.
4. If you haven’t set goals
Then set some today! Without knowing what you want to achieve with your money it’s difficult to stick to any sort of budget or saving plan. Work out what your 12-month and three-year goals are, work out how much you need to make them happen, calculate it back to a weekly amount and then set up an automatic savings plan. Stick pictures of your goals up where you can see them or as the screen saver on your phone so you don’t go off track.
5. If you want to retire
Then it’s time to get serious. Make sure you talk to an expert in July who can help you define when you want to retire, how much you need to retire on, what you have and what the gap is. By having this conversation you can then set up a plan early in the year to do all or some of the following: work towards the gap, drop your spending, adjust your retirement timeframe and create a superannuation plan.
6. If you’re worried about asset protection
There are so many options available to you when it comes to asset protection. If you’re not sure where to start and you’ve suspected that your assets might be at risk then decide to speak to an expert in July about how best to protect what you have. This can be a complicated process and there may be capital gains tax and stamp duty involved if you’re moving assets but it’s important to understand what’s involved so you can make an informed decision.
7. If you have credit card debt
Whether you have one card or multiple cards, if you have long-standing debt then decide to do something about it. Perhaps it’s looking at transferring the balance to a zero rate credit card or maybe it’s consolidating your debt into a loan and then cutting up the cards. With credit-card interest rates potentially as high as 20 per cent-plus this is one type of debt that you should be doing something about.
A new financial year is a good opportunity to start to become financially organised. Choose today to make this financial year a great one. So pull out your business socks, embrace the #getsh!tdone hashtag and choose what you’re going to work on this financial year.
Melissa Browne is an accountant, adviser, author and shoe addict.