The new year—it’s the perfect time to double-down on your commitment to Financial Freedom. And it’s the perfect opportunity to clean up after some of last year’s missteps. Today, we’ve got a list of must-do activities—and some extra credit tasks—to help you start the new year right.
1. Take the time to define your why
Why are you on this journey? What are you hoping to accomplish? What do you want to do with your coveted Freedom when you reach that big goal? Go through a deliberate thought exercise to define your dreams, and get started on an action plan to fulfill them.
2. Redefine what true wealth means for you
Most of the world sees wealth in terms of a flashy—and pricey!—lifestyle. But true wealth comes in the form of real Freedom—the Freedom to choose how you spend your time and where you spend your money.
So ask yourself, “What would true wealth mean for me?”
3. Start Paying Yourself First
Have you spent 2017 paying everyone else but never yourself? One of the core habits that will stabilize your finances and get you well on your way to Financial Freedom is the importance of Paying Yourself First. You, your family and your future are worth it! Commit to prioritizing yourself in the new year.
4. Know your numbers
If you’re going to complete the journey to Financial Freedom, identifying your destination is essential. In other words, calculate and know your Freedom Number. Figure out what your Freedom Date will be. And understand the true cost of your monthly expenses so you can plot your path.
5. Set up your Perfect Account Structure
When you set up your bank accounts for success, following through on your financial resolutions is so much easier. Establish a Pay Yourself First Account, an Everyday Account, Goals Accounts, a Surprise Account and whatever other accounts you need based on your Perfect Account Structure.
6. Clean up your credit
Bad credit creates problems with your money and in other, unexpected areas of your life. And rebuilding your spotty credit history does take time. So start making the choices of a responsible credit user.
Pay down your debt, steer clear of the plastic whenever possible and make a point to pay your bills on time.
7. Get serious about paying down debt
If you’re in over your head, the new year is the perfect time to start digging yourself out. Getting yourself out of debt — without losing your mind — is possible. Check in with some of the many members of the MindShift.money community to hear their inspirational stories of conquering debt and building wealth.
8. Audit your lifestyle choices
Is your Lifestyle Bucket overweight? When you choose possessions that support an unrealistic lifestyle over financial growth, you’re keeping your money from reaching its potential. So take a look at the possessions and experiences you plan to purchase in 2018, and double-check that they support your Freedom goal.
9. Look ahead, not back
No one makes perfect money choices all the time. And some of us—well, maybe we’d made more than our fair share. But the new year is a clean slate. So forgive yourself for the mistakes you made, and resolve to be your loudest cheerleader going forward.
10. Spend with intention
Spending can easily be a mindless activity. It’s so easy to swipe your card or click your mouse into debt. Instead, use this as the year you’ll stop the impulse spending. Choose to spend consciously and stick to your financial plan.
11. Protect your family
Are your loved ones secured from unexpected disasters? This year, get your safety net firmly in place. Make sure you have the right insurance coverages (in the right amounts) set up to protect yourself and your family.
12. Send your money out to work for you
If you haven’t started building your Income Generator, this is the time to get moving! When you fund your Freedom Generator with solid, income-producing assets, you turn the cash you already have into a money-making machine. Start by opening an account with a brokerage firm and getting your feet wet with small investments.
13. Review your investments
Take a look at your end-of-year brokerage statements. Are your assets performing up to par? Should you consider replacing lackluster funds with better quality investments or investments with lower fees? Talk with your financial advisor about your options. And as no one is sure how the new tax bill will affect us, so consult your accountant about the tax implications of selling and buying assets.
14. Automate your saving
Missing a bill payment? Forgetting to pay yourself first? Make those mistakes a thing of the past. Take the stress out of moving around the money in your bank accounts by automating your payments and transfers. Set it up, and then forget it!
15. Automate your investments
In the same way, never forget to invest, rebalance your portfolio or contribute to tax-sheltered accounts again. When you put your investment strategy on autopilot, your Freedom Generator will continue to build itself while you live your life.
16. Plan for big expenses
Will you be buying a car this year? Taking a big trip? Paying for childcare or education costs? Outline a plan now for those hefty bills that are coming down the pike. Use the automation in your Perfect Account Structure to funnel those funds to a safe place, or grab the opportunity for tax-advantaged savings.
17. Bump up your income.
Looking for some extra cash this year to maximize your Freedom game? Consider a profitable side hustle! Identify your marketable skills and take steps to set up your burgeoning business for success.
18. Minimize your tax bill
Tax time is right around the corner. Look for where you can squeeze some last-minute deductions into the early months of this year. You may be able to add some tax-deferred contributions to the retirement accounts in your Growth Engine, and knock down last year’s tax bill.
19. Extra credit: share your financial wisdom with your kids
Experience is one of the best teachers. So use the breakthroughs you’ve made—and the mistakes you’ve fallen into — to teach your kids how to have a healthy relationship with money.
20. Extra credit: get support
Join a group of like-minded people who are on the journey to Freedom. In Financially Fit Bootcamp, you’ll find real, encouraging people at every stage of the process. Plus, the community is staffed by mentors who offer special events just for community members, answer questions and share inspiration.
image credit: Bigstock/DedMityay
Dr. Tony is the co-founder of MindShift.money and the best-selling author of three books on personal and business finances. Having achieved Financial Freedom at 27, Dr. Tony believes that through Financially Fit Bootcamp and Cash Flow Cure everyone can get there. He has made it his life’s mission to help others live a life where their money works for them—not the other way around.