13 Tips for a Prosperous New Year

The following column from Phoebe Venable, CapWealth Advisors President & COO, appeared in The Tennessean on December 30, 2016.

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The holidays are a time of lists. Lists of loved ones who need Christmas gifts. Grocery lists for family feasts. Making resolutions. You’re in a list groove and I suggest you keep going! Here’s a list for ensuring financial success in 2017!

  1. Establish financial goals: You’re more likely to achieve goals if you write them down. Begin 2017 with written financial goals, both short-term and long-term.
  2. Make a budget: If 2016’s budget didn’t go to plan, identify your mistakes and resolve them in your 2017 budget. A budget is the only way to achieve #1.
  3. Make a list of assets:  The annual exercise of preparing a personal balance sheet can help determine if changes are needed. Write down all of your assets such as bank accounts, CODs, real estate, investment securities, insurance and retirement accounts. Then list all liabilities — debts — and determine your net worth (assets minus liabilities).
  4. Review outstanding loans: Interest rates have been low for several years — but now they’re rising. If you have long-term obligations, what interest rate are you paying? If you’ve never refinanced, you might secure a lower rate before they go higher. Be sure to review your mortgage, home equity lines and car loans.
  5. Insurance review: If you’ve experienced any life changes in the last year, you may need to adjust your insurance policies. Is your life insurance adequate? Do you have sufficient liability coverage? Don’t forget about the deductibles on your homeowners and automobile policies. Your insurance agent can help you assess the cost savings from a lower deductible versus your risk.
  6. Contribute to an IRA: The deadline for 2016 contributions is April 17, 2017. Make your contributions now and reap the benefits later.
  7. Look at your emergency fund: Save six to nine months of living expenses so you have cash available for any financial surprises in 2017.
  8. Request a free annual credit report from the three major credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) by going to AnnualCreditReport.com or calling 1-877-322-8228. Everyone is entitled to one free report from each bureau every 12 months. Review your credit report for errors.
  9. Ugh, taxes: As you prepare to file this year’s tax return, talk with your accountant about ways to lessen your tax impact in 2017. Can you donate more to charity? Are you claiming all of your business-related expenses? A solid tax strategy can lessen the year’s expenses.
  10. Online viewing and bill pay: Less paper means less trash and more convenience.
  11. Review your estate-planning documents: Life events like births, deaths, marriages and divorces could require modifications to your will, trusts and power of attorney. Now’s the time to dust off those documents and reassess.
  12. Don’t get stuck in negative or euphoric thinking: These past several years have presented an economy that’s moved from bad to tepid. Today, however, we have a stock market at an all-time high. There will always be economic expansions and contractions. Don’t let your long-term investment goals get derailed by overly dark or rosy forecasts for the near term. Our firm is realistically optimistic about the future — but we always are, because there’s opportunity in every market if you know where to look. The key is investments based on solid, researched, clear-eyed strategies. Talk to a financial adviser for guidance.
  13. Take moment to feel good: Reflect on your 2016 accomplishments and continue to search for financial and personal satisfaction in the year to come.

Consider these a blueprint for a happy and prosperous new year!

Phoebe Venable, chartered financial analyst, is president and COO of CapWealth Advisors, LLC. Her column on women, families and building wealth appears every other Saturday in The Tennessean.