(BPT) – As the holidays (and all the extra spending that goes with them) wind down and the new year ramps up, many people turn their attention to their finances. While New Year’s resolutions to spend less and save more come with the best intentions, when it comes to your financial future, you need more than a resolution. You need a plan.
Don’t have a plan? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Just one-third of middle-income Americans, or those making between $35,000-$100,000 per year, has a comprehensive financial plan, according to a recent study, Beyond Retirement Advice, by Financial Engines, America’s largest independent investment advisor.
To start taking control of your financial future in 2017, Financial Engines offers the following tips:
1. Look at the big picture. The study found financial plans for middle-income workers are significantly less likely to address saving for a child’s college education, purchasing life or disability insurance or estate planning than plans of higher-income workers. However, regardless of income, most people’s plans failed to address important topics, such as making sure they’re saving enough to reach retirement goals or strategies to maximize Social Security benefits. As you develop a financial plan, be sure to address short-term goals, such as setting a weekly or monthly budget, but don’t overlook long-term goals. To test your knowledge about what should go into a financial plan, try this quiz.
2. Increase your savings rate. While it may come as no surprise that people who have a financial plan tend to save more for retirement, it’s eye-opening how saving just a little more today can have a big impact in the long-run. The study found that regardless of their incomes, people who had a financial plan reported saving around 10 percent of their salaries toward retirement, compared to those without a plan who reported saving just 6 percent. Consider this: a person starting with retirement savings of $50,000 who earns an annual salary of $100,000 and saved 6 percent toward retirement could have as much as $890,000 after 25 years. But if the same person saved 10 percent of their salary, they could have as much as $1.13 million after 25 years, or $240,000 (26 percent) more.
The moral of the story? If you haven’t been saving for retirement, make this the year you start. If you have been saving, consider increasing your savings rate – just one or two percent more can make a big difference.
3. Ask your employer for help. We don’t mean ask your boss for a raise (though that’s not a bad idea!), but rather ask about financial wellness and education resources that may be available to employees. Some employers offer financial planning services covering budgeting, college savings, insurance and more through the workplace, with more employers planning to in 2017. In fact, Aon Hewitt’s 2016 Hot Topics in Retirement and Financial Well-Being report found that 89 percent of employers are likely to add or expand the financial well-being tools and services offered to employees this year. The Financial Engines study found the majority of workers (57 percent) are “very or extremely interested” in accessing financial help via the workplace.
When faced with financial obligations like rent or a mortgage, groceries and other bills, it’s easy to let today to get in the way of planning – and saving – for tomorrow. But as the new year begins, it’s a perfect time to hit the reset button and make 2017 the year you invest in your financial future. One of the best ways to do this is with a comprehensive financial plan. If you’re not sure how to get started, consider setting up a meeting with a financial advisor who is a fiduciary, or one that puts your best interests first. Doing so can help set you up for a happy and financially healthy new year.