Monday, December 29, 2008

Goodbye 2008, Hello 2009

Well chickadees, it's almost time to bid 2008 adieu. I don't know how most of you will look back on the year, as choruses of "Auld Lang Syne" waft from many a pub, street and living room after the ball drops on Wednesday night, but for me the year definitely had its ups and downs.

Ups: Getting a fabulous raise, visiting family more often, celebrating one-year wedding anniversary, making some marvelous friends, starting this blog, all the uber cute clothes I've added to my wardrobe.

Downs: Living in Washington DC, grandfather passing away, lack of funds to go traveling with, not seeing Love much as law school has become "the other woman" in our relationship (haha), the cost of all the uber cute clothes I've added to my wardrobe.

You get the point. I've yet to whittle my list of 2009 resolutions down to one or two that somewhat resemble realistic goals. (Something tells me "convert living room into giant home theater replete with DVD projector" or "take roadtrip down to Argentina in late-60s model VW bus" are either too expensive or too Hunter S. Thompson-esque, respectively ... at least at this point in my life.) Sigh. I guess there's solace in knowing that a money resolution is always good fallback fodder for those looking to be more financially fit. And I have a feeling that many of you probably feel the same way.

So what do you want out of 2009? A larger emergency fund? Paying down (hopefully!) most of your debt? Sharing your fiscal mistakes to educate those you care about? Personal finance expert Dara Duguay, director of Citigroup’s Office of Financial Education, recently shared five excellent money resolutions that many of us could adopt to help get our finances in order for 2009. If you're more of an a la carte gal like me, pick and sample which of the following may be the best for you to work on in the coming year:

Don’t treat money as a taboo subject. Whether managing finances yourself or with a spouse/partner, avoiding money issues in the hopes that they will just go away or until you have a financial crisis only guarantees stress and arguments. Set aside time every month – or schedule regular monthly “money meetings” with your partner – to review the bills, progress toward your money goals, investment portfolio, college savings and any other money topic that is relevant. This monthly review could coincide with bill paying or when your bank statement arrives.

Create an emergency fund.
Emergency savings are, in effect, a form of insurance. It will protect you from life’s curveballs catapulting you into a financial crisis. So open a savings account and don’t stop contributing until you have saved enough to cover at least three months of monthly expenses. If you can save six months worth, even better. This will prevent you from having to take cash advances, which while helpful in emergencies, come with fees and interest rate charges that are usually higher than your credit card purchases. Use cash advances with discretion, and don’t use them to fill gaps in your income or savings. Having an emergency fund will give you peace of mind.

Pay more than the minimum on your credit cards whenever you can.
Even a small amount more than the minimum can make a big difference in the time it takes to pay off your balance and the total cost of interest. Also, be sure to make your monthly payments on time, every time. Even one late or missed payment can be recorded in your credit report and affect your credit history.

Contribute the maximum to a retirement savings plan.
Approximately 50% of Americans who have the opportunity to contribute to a company retirement plan, choose not to. In many cases, contributions are matched by the company. This is free money that is being thrown away by opting out. Remember that your contributions will reduce your taxable income and will only be taxed when you start to withdraw them at retirement age.

Make sure you have adequate insurance protection. There is nothing like an emergency to wipe out your savings or add to your debt level. Protect yourself financially from as many emergencies as possible by ensuring adequate insurance for health, life, auto and home. Confronting these issues can be difficult since no one likes to think about possible illness or death, but to assume you are invincible from “life events” or tragedy is to not be realistic about life.

Here's to a great 2009, filled with good health, substantial wealth (fingers crossed) and renewed prosperity! To quote Oprah (one of my idols), "Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right."


Budget Mama said...

Happy New Year! My goals are to definitely contribute to the EF, get out of debt and just have fun with life!

Julie said...

My goal is to start a CD Ladder and add to my emergency fund. Good post.

Anonymous said...

Good luck and Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

I thought there were no girlies left in the world then stumbled upon your site ... Love it (and am now a confirmed brunette man!).

Happy 2009.

Ps for my New Year resolutions ... markedly different from yours of course!

Emilita said...

Aw, living in D.C isn't *so* bad, is it? I actually wish I went into the District-proper more nowadays like when I spent four years living there for college; since moving to and working in Md., I spend most of my time in the suburbs. (=boring.)

At least the new year offers a bit of a fresh start. :)

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