by Ken Stelts, AAMS - Financial Advisor.
Each New Year, most of us vow to improve in one aspect or another of our lives. However, we don't always rush into carrying out our resolutions. But if you've promised yourself that "this is the year" that you're really going to stay on top of your financial and investment situations, you'll want to get started now.
Start by reviewing your family and career circumstances. Will there be any significant changes in your life in 2008? If so, they almost certainly will have an impact on how you save and invest. Consider these types of factors:
New child - If you've recently added a child to your family, or you're going to add one in 2008, you have a lot to be happy about. And you also have a lot to protect. So, make sure that you have enough life and disability insurance to help raise and educate your child, should something happen to you. Also, it's never too soon to set up a college fund for a child, so you might want to open a Section 529 plan or a Coverdell Education Savings Account.
Child heading to college - If your child is heading off to college next fall, it's time to put your college funding strategies in high gear. When it's past January 1, you can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at www.fafsa.ed.gov
. If you are some years away from college you may want to accumulate assets in your name versus your child's name; colleges typically expect students to contribute 35 percent of the money toward college expenses - but you are only required to kick in around 5.6 percent. And you'll want to contribute as much as you can to whatever investments you've designated for college. Also, if you saved for college in a custodial account, be sure to look into the recent changes in the “kiddie tax” that could change the tax outlook from when you started the account.
Salary increase - Are you getting a raise this year? If so, try to invest at least part of it. For example, you may want to increase your contributions to your IRA, Roth, or 401(k). These retirement-savings vehicles offer tax advantages and a range of investment options. Check how much you are contributing as both have had increases in contribution limits over the last few years, so even if you "maxed out" in the past, you may be able to do even more now. If you are over 50, you are eligible for an additional “catch up” contribution.
Retirement - If you're planning to retire in 2008, you have many issues to consider. You may need to decide if you want to rollover your 401(k) to an IRA. If you are under 59½, you may need to see how to tap your retirement plans without penalties. You may have to decide whether to take a lump sum distribution or a pension income stream from your company plan. You might also have to decide whether or not you should begin accepting Social Security. And you'll want to ensure that your investment portfolio is properly balanced for your retirement years. Keep in mind that you may enjoy a healthy, active retirement for two or three decades, so you'll still need your investments to provide you with growth opportunities, as well as current income. Your investment and tax advisors can help you determine the best moves to make as you enter retirement.
Start the year off right
Get 2008 off to a good start by making sure your investment plans fit your life. It may be the most important New Year's resolution you make - and it's one you'll want to keep.