Ask Chuck: 5 Steps To Improve Your Finances This New Year
Covid set me back financially this year. As a result, we’re having a very frugal Christmas. Can you offer any tips on setting financial goals for next year? I want to be better prepared for what may lie ahead!
Getting Ready for 2021
Dear Getting Ready,
I am so sorry for the setbacks you have suffered during this pandemic. Millions of people just like you are looking forward to the new year with great anticipation and are hoping to make improvements in our finances.
New Year, New You
January is typically a time of renewal. For many of us, that includes diets, health and fitness goals, relationships, or financial plans. However, after what we have experienced in 2020, our highest need will be for renewed hope. Watching the news, scrolling through social media, and listening to certain friends or family members will not fulfill that need. Hope gets us through the tough seasons and gives us direction in times of uncertainty. Thankfully, we have the ultimate source of hope: Jesus. We need to learn to rely on Him in order to cultivate that hope. Here is a quick outline of steps for 2021.
Step One: Make a Vow. Dedicate this year to the Lord and seek his guidance in all decision-making.
“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3 ESV)
Step Two: Make a Plan. Plan and encourage one another daily.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 ESV)
Pray for self-control and the willingness to stay focused throughout the coming year.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)
Step Three: Make a Target. Defining your financial goals gives you something to aim for.
- Write them out and place them where you are reminded daily.
- Determine to spend less than you earn.
- Have monthly money dates to analyze your progress.
- Assign roles to each other for defense and offense. Be “guard dogs” to protect your earnings so that you can steward wisely. I guarantee you that the “thief” is on the prowl. He comes ONLY to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10a ESV). He will rob you of progress unless you are very intentional in implementing your plan.
Step Four: Make a Budget. Gather your financial records, track your expenses, and create a budget. Make giving your first priority. Establish an emergency account. This will enable you to cover unexpected expenses so that you can avoid debt. Start with $1,000 and then aim for an amount that covers 3-6 months of your overhead expenses. Analyze lifestyle decisions. Some short-term ones to consider include replacing a vehicle, repairs, maintenance, vacation, gifts, etc. Long-term decisions may include a down payment for a home, education, retirement, etc. Keep your tax liability in mind and plan accordingly.
Step Five: Review Your Insurance. This is a good time to review your insurance coverage: Homeowners or Renters/Auto/Liability, Disability, Life, and Long-Term Care. Not only should you determine if you have coverage but also if you are getting the right price for what you have in place.
Don’t Overlook These
Update your will. Today this includes creating a Living Will or Trust, Health Declarations, Power of Attorney documents, and password files.
Pick a debt management plan and pay off all credit cards! Christian Credit Counselors are trusted partners of Crown and have helped hundreds of thousands of families eliminate their credit card debt. Once free of consumer debt, you can begin investing.
Depending on your age, put a reminder on your calendar to enroll in Medicare before your 65th birthday. Determine when you should begin to draw social security.
Check your credit reports from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. This is important with the number of security breaches. Check to make sure information is correct and report any inaccuracies. Contact them to freeze your credit if necessary. This will prevent thieves from applying and obtaining credit in your name. You can unfreeze as needed.
Know your credit score. A free report is available at www.annualcreditreport.com. Some credit cards update your FICO score for free each month.
Calculate your net worth (assets minus liabilities). Aim for a positive number!
There has never been an easier time to attain a Biblical financial education. Books, online studies, and insights from places like Sound Mind Investing, Generous Giving, and Crown’s online library of courses make it convenient and practical to learn year-round.
Most importantly, read the Word of God. You will gain wisdom, discernment, and hope that is more advantageous than anything the world offers.
God has called us to himself that we might shine light into the darkness and bring Him glory. At Crown, we provide resources that will renew your hope through Biblical truths about the Father and the gifts He has entrusted to you.
Merry Frugal Christmas
It has been our experience that a frugal Christmas is often the best Christmas. The focus shifts away from the number of boxes under the tree or the expense of the season to the awe and wonder of celebrating the incarnation of Christ; Emmanuel, God with us.
I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year. We are here to help you on your journey in 2021.
The Article was originally published on The Christian Post on December 18, 2020