7 Money Moves That Will Set You Up for a Successful New Year

couple discussing finances in kitchenWith another ball drop around the corner, this a perfect time to think about getting your financial life set for the new year. "When we look at the new year's resolutions people make every year, in addition to losing weight and getting in shape, getting your finances in order often comes very high on the list," says the Today show's resident financial expert Jean Chatzky. "If you are focusing on things like reducing debt, saving more, or things like that in 2016, I think it is nice to give yourself a running head start, and set yourself up for success."


Here, Chatzky shares with The Stir what you can do today to make sure you wrap up 2015 on a high note and prepare to make 2016 a financially fantastic year.

1. Take stock. After setting goals (or resolutions, whatever you want to call 'em), you should consider the "more tactical moves that have to do with taxes, like taking advantage of deductions for things like charitable contributions, and making sure that you've contributed to your employer's retirement plan like a 401K," Chatzky advises.

2. Take advantage of technology. "There is so much that we can do using technology to help us by automating contributions into various savings or investments accounts," Chatzky says. "It's nice that we can make a good decision one time these days, and then let technology take over to help us succeed where these financial things are concerned."

jean chatzky

3. Get a head start on taxes. The truth is that most people don't do their taxes until February, because the forms you need from employers don't come through until after the first of the year, Chatzky acknowledges. "But if you're home on vacation, why not take a day, and make your life easier?" she says. "Gather the documents that you can, shred things you no longer need. I like these end-of-the-year dates as a good time to think about, did I make the charitable contributions I wanted to make? Did I do the things I wanted to do?"

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4. Talk to your partner about what you want. Although you should be having an ongoing conversation about your finances, Chatzky says the new year is a prime opportunity to put a sit-down on the calendar. What you should go over: "Where do you stand? What do you want in terms of where we want to go? People think talking about money isn't fun or romantic, especially if you are talking about debt. But I think conversations about goals and dreams are the romantic part of talking about money. Talking about goals is the fun stuff. It keeps relationships strong."

5. Talk to other family members about their financial goals, too. The end of the year is a great time to "talk to kids about what their goals are and about helping other people. It is also important to talk with older parents," says Chatzky.

"Parents are sometimes reluctant to share financial details, which is unfortunate, but the real thing you need to figure out with your parents is are they going to need help from you at the same time that you are trying to put your own kids through college," she notes. "So, just having an open dialogue with them is a nice thing to do, particularly this time of year."

6. If you're lucky enough to receive a windfall, consider your endgame. Whether you've been gifted with a bonus or a tax refund, any lump sum is an opportunity, Chatzky says. "With a bonus, make sure taxes have been taken out, because you don't want to get a surprise," she warns.

After that, you'll want to "sit down and say, 'What have we not done?'" In other words, have you opened a spousal IRA for a stay-at-home parent? Have you worked on wiping out credit card debt? "It is a chance to work toward a financial goal," Chatzky says.

7. Give. "Use the end of the year to make sure you were as charitable as you planned to be," Chatzky advises. "If not, there is still time. I'm writing checks right now!"


Images via Dean Mitchell/iStock.com; Jean Chatzky by Brad Trent

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