Resolutions can put money in pocket

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 8, 2002

Tired of making and breaking the same old resolutions every New Year?

Why not try something different that can put money in your pocket? For those determined to improve their financial well-being in 2002, the New Year is a good time to take action.

The following financial resolutions suggested by the Louisiana CPA Society, should prove to be well worth the willpower necessary for keeping them.

1. I will set financial goals. Today. Whatever your dream, be it buying a new home, building a college tuition fund, or saving for retirement, planning can help make your dream a reality. The first step is to decide what it is you want and how much you need to accumulate to meet your goals. Finally, you need to devise a plan for saving and investing toward your goal.

2. I’ll set up an emergency fund. Finally. What if you were suddenly laid off or suffered an illness and couldn’t work? If you find such thoughts unsettling, start taking steps now to put aside some money each month until you have accumulated the equivalent of six months’ worth of living expenses.

Without an emergency fund, you could be forced to sell off investments during a down market or, worse yet, cash in retirement funds in order to meet living expenses.

3. I will reduce my credit card debt. For keeps. One of the smartest ways to improve your family’s overall financial health is to minimize debt.

Concentrate on paying down the credit card with the highest interest rate first, then move on to the next highest. Don’t fall into the trap of paying only the minimum amount due. You also might consider restructuring your debt with a tax-deductible home equity loan. Just remember that a home equity loan puts your house in jeopardy should you default.

4. I will pay myself first. Always. Many people fall into the trap of saving what, if anything, is leftover at the end of the month.

Since you tend not to miss what you don’t see, arranging to have a specific portion of your pay automatically deposited to a savings or mutual fund account will make it easy to keep this resolution.

5. I will review my investment portfolio. Or else.

The past year’s market volatility has left many investors’ portfolios out of balance. Review your investment portfolio and take necessary steps to rebalance your investments in line with your financial goals and your tolerance for risk. It’s also a good time to make sure your portfolio is well diversified and not heavily-weighted in one company or industry.

6. I will boost my retirement savings. Without fail. The best way to ensure a comfortable retirement is to begin saving now.

Under the new Tax Act of 2001, all taxpayers can contribute more in the new year to virtually all types of retirement accounts, and those age 50 and older can deposit an even greater amount under the Act’s new “catch up” provisions. Make every effort to invest the most you can in a 401(k)retirement plan, particularly if your employer matches the funds you contribute.

If you plan to contribute to an IRA, make the contribution early in the year to maximize tax-deferred growth and benefit from the power of compounding.

7. I will update my insurance needs. Regularly. Your life, homeowners, car and disability insurance needs are likely to evolve along with changes in your family situation.

Evaluate your coverage needs and then seek quotes from other insurers to make sure you’re getting the best deal. If you would like to free up some cash to pay down debt or to increase savings, consider raising the deductible on your homeowners or car insurance policies.

8. I will review the New Tax Act. Carefully. From lower tax rates to new tax credits, from improved education breaks to new estate tax laws, the Tax Act of 2001 includes a number of important provisions that take effect in 2002.

Go over the changes in the new tax law with the help of a CPA and put into place a year-round plan for making the most of the Act’s tax-saving opportunities.

9. I will not lose sight of what is really important. I promise.

To really enjoy life, be sure to count your blessings, and not just your assets.

To find a CPA who can help you with your personal and financial matters, visit the LCPA’s Web site at and utilize the CPA Locator Service.

It is free, fast and easy to use.