10 Financial Resolutions for 2016

Want to make new year’s resolutions? Here are some popular ones and ways to help stick to them. Fidelity Viewpoints – 12/29/2015 Want to make financial resolutions for the new year? It’s a great idea—and it can actually help you feel better about your finances. Our research shows just that. So what are you and your family resolving to do in 2016? Maybe it’s family related, like saving for your kid’s college education. Or maybe the volatile stock market in 2015 made you realize you need to pay a bit more attention to your investments, perhaps review what you own to make sure you have an appropriate mix of investments. Of course, making a resolution is one thing, keeping it is another. With that in mind, we created a simple interactive (right) and links to information and tools to help you make your resolutions come true. The 10 resolutions highlighted are those our customers said were their top resolutions for 2016.

Resolution #1:
Spend less. Everyone has monthly expenses—you need a place to live and to eat. But you may be able to reduce the costs—from refinancing to a lower mortgage rate to shopping around for lower-priced cell phone service or electricity, and stocking up on things you use often when they are on sale. Discretionary expenses—those “nice to haves”—likely provide an even bigger opportunity for savings. If spending less is your goal, take a look at how often you eat out and any impulse purchases. When you see how much they cost, it may provide the incentive to cut them out. Get started Learn: “50/15/5: a saving and spending rule of thumb.” Figure it out: Review your spending and saving with our Simple Budget Checkup. Stay on top of it: Track your spending and saving with Cinch (log in required).

Resolution #2:
Save more. Saving more is a close cousin to spending less. After getting a sense of your spending, you can begin to figure out how to increase your saving. A haphazard approach to saving will almost certainly produce haphazard results. The key is to create a savings plan that will help you stay disciplined when it comes to the amount you put away each month to meet your various savings goals. One of the simplest ways to ensure you save regularly is to make it automatic. That means scheduled, regular, automatic transfers into a savings or retirement account. If the money isn’t in your checking account, for instance, you are less likely to spend it frivolously. Get started Learn: “How to save money.” Figure it out: Use our savings planner. Stay on top of it: Track your spending and saving with Cinch (log in required).

Resolution #3:
Invest more. Have the 2015 markets tested your resolve? With pockets of volatility and big moves in certain markets, it makes sense to take a look at what you own. Your investment mix should have an appropriate level of risk and growth potential. If the market has shifted that mix, you may need to rebalance it. But don’t forget that giving your money a chance to grow is important. One of the best ways to do so over the long term is by investing in a mix of stocks and stock mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). That means getting used to riding the ups and downs of the market. The investments you choose are just as important as how much you invest. A diversified portfolio that’s suited to your investing goals is essential. If you have a 401(k) or 403(b), your employer typically gives you a choice of mutual funds. You may be tempted to choose a conservative option, but if you have a long time until retirement and are comfortable with more risk, you can usually be more aggressive.
Not a hands-on investor? Consider what’s called a target date fund, if your employer offers one. The fund manager selects, monitors, and adjusts the mix to match a target retirement date. You choose the fund that matches the date you plan to retire. For a traditional IRA, you typically have more choices, including building your own mix of individual stocks and mutual funds. Again, if you don’t have the skill, will, or time to manage your investments yourself, consider a target date fund or managed account. Get started Learn: “Three reasons to invest in stocks.” Figure it out: Investing for growth. Stay on top of it: Review your investment mix in our Planning & Guidance Center (log in required).

Resolution #4:
Pay down debt. Student loans, credit-card balances, car loans, and mortgages— you probably have a variety of debt, as most people do. And the monthly payments can take a big bite out of your income. The key is to pay down the debt with the highest interest rate first, which is usually high interest rate credit cards. Consider paying more than the minimum each month. Check your credit card statement to see how long it will take you to pay off the balance—and how much it will cost. The statement usually suggests how much you need to pay each month to pay it off completely. Get started Learn: “How to pay off debt—and save too.” Learn: “Four ways to get out of credit card debt.” Figure it out: Map out paying off a credit card balance with our Savings Planner. Stay on top of it: Check your credit card balances every month.

Resolution #5:
Set aside money for an emergency. Managing your money would be much easier if life went exactly as planned, but it seldom does. That’s why an emergency fund is essential for dealing with everything from a blown transmission to a lost job. Fidelity recommends a cash reserve sufficient to cover three to six months of expenses. Get started Learn: “How to save for an emergency.” Figure it out: See how much to have in an emergency fund with our Simple Budget Checkup. Stay on top of it: Check your emergency fund balance every month.

Resolution #6:
Have a budget and stick to it. Trying to navigate your financial life without a budget is like trying to drive a car without a gas gauge and odometer. You’ll never know if you can make it to the next fill-up without running out. The good news is that you don’t have to micromanage
every penny. Analyzing your current spending and saving based on our three categories—essential spending, retirement savings, and short-term savings—can give you control and, perhaps as important, confidence. Undoubtedly, your financial situation will change over time. A budget is essential for both spending and saving. Once you know where your money is going, you can make an informed decision about how to allocate it. Get started Learn: “50/15/5: a saving and spending rule of thumb.” Figure it out: Review your spending/saving with our Simple Budget Checkup. Stay on top of it: Track your spending and saving with Cinch (log in required).

Resolution #7:
Save more for retirement. Who doesn’t have a retirement dream—a someday? It may be as simple as sleeping late or riding your bike on a sunny afternoon, or as daring as jumping out of a plane at age 90. Living your someday the way you want means having a road map now. Our rule of thumb: Aim to save at least 15% of your pretax income each year, from age 25 to age 67. It should help ensure that you have enough income to maintain your current lifestyle in retirement. One way to do that is to make the most of tax-advantaged savings accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs, and grab your employer match, if you have one, for your workplace retirement account. With a traditional 401(k), your contributions are made before tax, reducing your current taxable income, and the money can grow tax free until withdrawal. With a Roth 401(k) your contributions are after tax, but the money can grow tax free and be withdrawn tax free at retirement.1 While 15% may seem like a lot, if you have a 401(k) or other workplace retirement account with an employer match or profit sharing, it counts toward your annual savings. If you’re not there yet, try to increase your savings each year until you get to 15%. Upping your saving just 1% may seem small, but after 20 or 30 years it can make a big difference in your total savings. Get started Learn: “Three keys to retirement savings.” Figure it out and stay on top of it: Use our Planning & Guidance Center (log in required).

Resolution #8:
Buy a home. Are you thinking about buying your first home? Before making a purchase, make sure you carefully consider all the factors surrounding your decision. It’s important to take a step back and evaluate how much you can comfortably afford. Figuring out how owning a home fits into your budget can help you avoid pitfalls. Get started Learn: “How much house can you afford?” and “Buy a home or rent?” Figure it out: Calculate how much house you can afford.

Resolution #9:
Save for your kid’s college. Studies have shown consistently that a college education pays off in the long run for most people. College graduates earn higher salaries and experience lower levels of unemployment. But college is expensive, averaging $19,548 for a public college and $43,921 for a private institution, according to the College Board Trends in College Pricing 2015. So the earlier you start saving the better. Make the most of tax-advantaged accounts, like 529 plans, which let your money grow tax free. It makes a bigger difference than you might think. That’s because you’re leveraging the potential power of tax-free compounding. And while many families worry that saving for college will hurt their chances of receiving financial aid, 529 college savings plan assets are considered parental assets. Because of this they have a low impact on financial aid. Get started Learn: “Are you saving enough for college?” Figure it out: Decide which college savings option is right for you. Stay on top of it: Set up automatic contributions to a 529 college savings account.

Resolution #10:
Learn more about finances. Getting in good financial shape can pay off. Spending wisely, saving what you can, managing debt, paying bills on time, investing, and having some money tucked away can make you feel good. And knowing where your money is going may mean more money for you to enjoy the things that are really important to you. You want to feel good about your money no matter where you are in life—whether you are saving for your first home, sending your firstborn to college, or planning for longer-term goals, like retirement. Before investing in any mutual fund or exchange-traded fund, you should consider its investment objective, risks, charges, and expenses. Contact Fidelity for a prospectus, offering circular, or, if available, a summary prospectus containing this information. Read it carefully. Diversification does not ensure a profit or guarantee against loss. Investing involves risk, including risk of loss. Stock markets are volatile and can decline significantly in response to adverse issuer, political, regulatory, market, or economic developments. Target date options are designed for investors expecting to retire around the year indicated in the fund name. The investment risk of the target date options changes over time as its asset allocation changes. They are subject to the volatility of the financial markets including equity and fixed income investments in the US and abroad and may be subject to risks associated with investing in high yield, small cap and foreign securities. Principal invested is not guaranteed at any time, including at or after their target dates. 1. A distribution from a Roth 401(k) is tax free and penalty free, provided the five-year aging requirement has been satisfied and one of the following conditions is met: age 59½, disability, or death. Votes are submitted voluntarily by individuals and reflect their own opinion of the article’s helpfulness. A percentage value for helpfulness will display once a sufficient number of votes have been submitted. Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC, 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917 744261.1.2

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