couple as they review the past year and plan for the future

Review the past year and plan for the future 

As we head into the new year, this is an excellent time to review the past year and plan for the future. Look back and determine what’s working for you. What isn’t working? Have your goals or priorities changed? Do you feel like you’re making progress towards your goals? Most importantly, do you have a plan?

Looking forward

Let’s start with the long-term vision.

Where do you want to be in 20 years? What do you want your life to look like? Will you be working? Retired? Mid-life gap year(s)? Spending your time traveling?

An estimate of what your lifestyle will cost in 20 years is a decent starting point for what you need to have in place in 10 years. And what you need to have in place in 10 years helps us figure out what needs to be in place in 5 years. And that, in turn, helps us determine what steps should be taken this year. 

If we’ve worked together or you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ve heard me say that much of financial planning is about making sure you have options in the future. You may be pursuing the ability to buy a vacation home in 2027. Planning your finances helps ensure you have the option in 2027 to buy the house – but it doesn’t commit you to absolutely buying the house. 

We do planning now so that you have options in the future. And planning is an ongoing process. We use goals to determine where we’re going, and we adjust the route on a regular basis to account for changes to things like your specific situation, economic conditions, tax regulations, and possibly, changes to the goal itself. 

It is very much like using your phone’s GPS to navigate a long trip – every once in a while, the voice will pop up and let you know it’s found a better route. 

Here are areas to consider as you build your plan for the coming year: 

Income planning

What do you expect to make this year, and how does it break down into: 

  • Wages, owner’s draw, investment income, passive income 
  • Income that results from you going to work versus income that results from your assets working for you 
  • Income that is taxable, non-taxable, and taxable at different rates 

Consider

What steps can you take this year to grow your income? 

Additional investing or perhaps changes to your portfolio? 

Education to advance your career? 

Scaling or marketing strategies for your business? 

What steps can you take this year to put your income to work for you? 

What steps can you take to preserve your income and wealth from taxes both now and in the future? 

Will the income sources you’re nurturing now (pre-tax retirement accounts, Roth accounts, deferred compensation, pension, owner’s draw, investment income, etc.) provide enough options to manage your income (and, therefore, your taxes) in the future? 

Liquidity

Do you have sufficient liquid funds in case of emergency (emergency fund)? These would be funds that are not subject to wide fluctuations in the market that can be tapped when the unexpected happens. 

Is your Events and Opportunities fund topped up? This fund helps you take advantage of opportunities that present themselves – whether it is an investment opportunity or an event like a trip or a Taylor Swift concert. 

Investments

Have all of your dollars been assigned a purpose? Liquid savings, investments, expenses, etc.? Are they all working towards your goals – either a lifestyle that you love now or a lifestyle you love in the future? 

Are your investments working in a tax-efficient manner? Do you have a strategy for locating individual holdings between retirement and non-retirement accounts to reduce tax impact? 

Are each of your investment holdings serving their specific purpose in your portfolio? 

Are you invested in accordance with the amount of risk you can tolerate, as well as the time horizon for each of your goals? 

Taxes

Do you have a strategy for this year’s income taxes?

Have you accounted for all sources of income, including your vesting restricted stock units, stock options, incentive stock options, as well as wages, owner’s draws, and investment income? 

Remember that federal income tax is generally withheld at 22% for lump sum bonuses. If your marginal tax bracket is higher than 22%, your employer likely hasn’t withheld enough. You’ll need a strategy to compensate for the shortfall. 

Accept that it may be necessary to pay more in taxes now in order to pay less in taxes over your lifetime. Make sure that you understand the strategies that you could put in place to reduce your overall tax burden now and all the way through your retirement years. 

Stay up to date on tax regulations and strategies, or hire someone who will do this on your behalf. 

Risk Management

Are you and your family members protected? 

Do you have sufficient life insurance to allow the people you care about to support their lifestyles in the event of your premature death? 

Do you have Long-Term Disability insurance? Protect one of your most important assets – your ability to earn an income. 

Consider long-term care insurance. Long-term care costs can easily wipe out family wealth. 

Do all family members have sufficient health insurance? 

Estate Planning

Are your wills and trusts up to date? 

Are your beneficiaries on insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other account designations correct? (This means that you have actually checked. Sometimes institutions make mistakes.) 

Have there been any changes that would require revisiting your estate planning? 

I hope you find this content useful as you review the past year and plan for the future. Cheers to a healthy and prosperous 2024!


 

This article is intended to be educational and thought-provoking rather than financial advice. When we work together in a financial planning engagement, we discuss your unique personal situation and your unique goals. During our financial planning process, we examine these factors and many others to determine appropriate financial strategies for YOU.

 

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