4 Steps to Improving Your Financial Wellness This Holiday Season

4 Steps to Improving Your Financial Wellness This Holiday Season

Buckle up, everyone. The holidays are just around the corner. And while they bring a spirit of joy and cheer, they can also be a stressful time for many Americans.

From Thanksgiving dinners and holiday shopping to seasonal parties and family get-togethers, there is no shortage of events in which folks participate.

Aside from the festivity, fellowship, and merriment, however, people can “feel the heat” in their money matters in a number of ways. And how might that be?

The pressure to overspend, for one. According to a recent survey by NerdWallet, a little over half of all Americans (51%) say they “typically overspend” on gifts.

Meanwhile, 39.4 million Americans are still paying off debt from last year’s holiday spending spree. And gift shopping is just one of many seasonal expenses that can keep the holiday cash register ringing.

Expenditures such as these can put the strain on retirees, who are more likely to have fixed incomes than other age groups. Not only that, the pressure of growing debt loads can have an impact on people’s retirement goals, not to mention any other financial objectives they may have.

But there is good news. Taking the right steps can go a long way toward achieving more financial security. If you, and your partner, are in your 50s or 60s, it’s good to start laying out your goals, mapping out a strategy for your future, and taking action so your money can work hard for you.

Here are some steps you can take to improve your financial wellness and potentially be more confident for the years ahead.

Steps toward Financial Wellness

Use these tips to move towards more financial peace of mind:

1. Keep an eye on spending during the holidays.

While the holidays are a time of giving, overspending can take a big chunk out of retirement income. The National Retail Federation reports that Americans plan to spend an average of $1,007.24, a 4.1% jump from last year’s average.

What’s more, retirees sometimes are top holiday spenders. Another survey by NerdWallet found that 6 in 10 baby boomers admit to using debt to finance spending.

Travel also tends to be a high-cost expense. According to Experian, Americans expect to spend $930 on holiday travel expenses in 2018 — a 61% bump-up from consumer spending estimates in 2017.

While budgeting and planning can promote spending control, they may only go so far. Personal finance experts point to a spending ceiling as a helpful stopgap to hold yourself accountable. Even so, it can be tempting to tap retirement assets for funds, even in spite of seasonal discounts or other deals being available.

If you are still in the stages of planning for retirement, take note. It’s prudent to leave your money intact.

Withdrawals from retirement accounts can cost a bundle in more ways than one.

Not only could you face a hefty tax bill for any withdrawals, but it’s tantamount to spending down future retirement income. That is not only the balance of whatever funds you take out, but any other dollars that might come from your money growing on a compounding basis.

2. Make sure to conduct an annual financial review.

Life doesn’t take a straight path. It comes with change over time. In turn, our financial goals and priorities can evolve with those changes.

An annual financial review gives you the opportunity to review your money matters, evaluate the results, and see your progress. It gives you an annual benchmark to work off, and what’s more, if any new strategies or readjustments are necessary, you are better positioned to make them.

For people near retirement, an annual review and financial checkup can be helpful in seeing whether your current strategy is optimized for your post-retirement goals and vision.

Make sure you schedule some time with your financial professional and go through an annual review. You may want to consider these questions as you evaluate your progress year-to-date:

  • Do you have enough money put away to maintain your income needs in retirement?
  • What are your goals for the upcoming year, and what income will you need to attain them?
  • Should you not be retired quite yet, what do you expect your income needs in retirement will be?
  • If you don’t have enough saved, what can you do to reach that milestone?
  • Is the portfolio diversification strategy you have right for you at this phase of your life? 
  • How is your portfolio performing, and what are you paying in fees? 
  • What will your tax burden look like as you start drawing on retirement accounts and other sources for income?
  • Is your current financial plan preparing you for future retirement risks like health costs, long-term care costs, inflation, and others?
  • What steps have you taken in your tax planning?
  • What are some ways you can lessen your debt load, if you have any?

3. Discuss your retirement goals and expectations with your partner. 

Lots of couples don’t realize it, but they often differ in their plans with their retirement money. It’s also not unusual for couples to have competing visions for their golden years.

This is just as true of money matters before retirement. Even people who have spent decades together may not realize just how much they differ from their significant others.

So, you might want to consider setting some time aside for money and retirement conversations. Talking while enjoying a nice dinner out or while taking a long trip is one strategy to defuse potential tensions. Having honest and open conversations about your retirement — and your money matters — can go a long way toward establishing an exciting shared vision.

4. Put everything into action.

Yes, establishing a financial plan is a critical step. But it’s just as important to actually take action and implement it. Even so, surprising numbers of people don’t take action — or they stretch out critical financial decisions to the point it might impact their future retirement outlook. Consider the following statistics:

  • Only 11 in 100 people have a written financial plan, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
  • 4 in 10 Americans can’t afford an emergency expense, according to the Federal Reserve Board.
  • One-third of Americans have $5,000 or less in retirement savings, according to Northwestern Mutual.

There is no time like now to take the reins of your financial future. What’s more, numerous surveys capture the benefit of planning ahead. Those who have prepared financially report positive outcomes including more peace of mind, higher retirement savings, and an improved overall sense of financial confidence.

Need Help with Your Financial Wellness?

While the holidays come with many competing priorities, they are a great time to get our financial houses in order. If you are ready to start preparing financially for the new year — or you could benefit from a personal review of your current retirement strategy — assistance is just a click away.

Financial professionals stand ready to help you at SafeMoney.com. Use our “Find a Financial Professional” section to connect with someone directly. If you need a personal referral, call us at 877.476.9723.

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