2020 has been an unusual year to say the least, and most of us won’t be sorry to see the back of it. With 2021 fast approaching, we have a great opportunity for a reset so what positive changes are you going to make?
A new year means new year’s resolutions, and, often, not far into January, abandoned good intentions. But it is possible to make resolutions that you keep and your chances of doing so are greatly enhanced if you make them SMART.
If you’re not already familiar with the SMART mindset, here’s what your resolutions need to be to ensure that you don’t fall at the first hurdle and abandon them before January is out:
I’m all for people setting finance-friendly resolutions and if you’re stuck for inspiration here are some suggestions, along with some handy tips on how to keep them so that you finish 2021 financially better off than you are now.
1. 2021 will be the year I get debt-free
Debt and financial security are not happy bedfellows, especially with interest as high as 30% on some credit cards in Hong Kong. That Black Friday deal on a new phone/outfit/TV is anything but a bargain if you’re still paying it off with 30% interest in six months time.
If you have any unsecured high-interest loans, make it your resolution to deal with those. Don’t forget you need to make your resolution SMART so you need to get specific.
The first step is to do an inventory of your debt – what you owe, to whom and the rate you pay. It may be in your interest to consolidate loans and negotiate a lower rate or to make the most of credit cards with 0% interest balance transfer offers to give you a boost.
Then make a specific and measurable goal based on your findings. For example, if you have $12,000 of debt, your goal could be to pay off $1,000 a month to be debt-free by Christmas 2021. Having such a specific target does make it easier to swallow the unavoidable pill of having to steer clear of the shops and curb nights out for a while, and just imagine the celebration when you achieve your goal!
2. 2021 will be the year I accumulate an emergency fund
If there is one thing that 2020 has taught us, it is just how unpredictable life can be. This time last year few of us had any idea of the havoc a virus would wreak around the globe.
Sadly, the far-reaching consequences of the pandemic have shown just how important it is to have an emergency pot to be financially prepared for all kinds of disaster scenarios. So your SMART version of this resolution could be to accumulate three to six months’ worth of income to set aside to deal with the financial fallout of unforeseen life events: a job loss, an unexpected illness which means you can’t work, a global pandemic.
If you already have an emergency fund but it has taken a hit in 2020, make it a priority to rebuild it in 2021.
3. 2021 will be the year I get wealth protection sorted
Many people concentrate on the wealth creation side of financial planning to the detriment of wealth protection, yet 2020 has highlighted just how important wealth protection can be.
We’re talking insurance here and there are three types to consider with regard to wealth protection: medical insurance, life insurance and critical illness cover. These vital products offer a payout when sickness, long-term illness or death affect a household’s income. This is instrumental in keeping things on an even keel and riding out a storm when the sea of life gets choppy.
To make this resolution SMART, start by clarifying any cover you might have through your employment and whether it is sufficient to cover your family’s essential expenditure or whether you need to take out additional cover.
Achieving this resolution will give you the peace of mind that whatever tough stuff life throws your way, you won’t have to worry about the financials.
4. 2021 will be the year I ensure I am saving enough for retirement
This is a biggie but if you can get your retirement savings sorted over the course of the year you will have an amazing sense of achievement going into 2022.
My SMART resolution suggestion is ‘Work out my long-term financial goals and how much I need to save each month to reach them’. There are a few steps required to achieving this. First up, for those in Hong Kong, look at your MPF. I’ve just written a blog post on this which you can check out here. Your mandatory MPF contributions are unlikely to deliver the retirement of your dreams and you will probably need to make additional provision but you need concrete figures to work with.
Establishing how much extra you need to save for retirement is not easy. You will find lots of basic rule of thumb calculations online in reality but there are so many different elements to take into consideration. That’s why nothing beats seeing an adviser who can take you through some calculations based on your specific situation and retirement objectives. See point 5 and achieve two resolutions for the price of one!
5. 2021 will be the year I seek help with my financial planning
If figures send you into a spin, financial planning can seem like an extremely daunting task and one that you’re likely to put off. If that’s the case, why not make life a bit easier for yourself and resolve to get a professional on board in 2021?
While there is often a perception that financial advisers are only for the extremely wealthy, it’s simply not true. Most people can appreciate the benefits of having a life coach, fitness instructor or counsellor to bring expertise and objectivity to clarifying and fulfilling our goals and a cheerleader to keep you moving forward when you’re flagging, and it’s just the same for financial planning. If you’re serious about getting your finances in order, seek help and obtain peace of mind by consulting a professional.
While 2020 has been a challenge for all of us, for many it has proved our resilience in the face of adversity and there is some comfort to be had in that. I also like to think that when times are as tough as they have been this year, the only way is up.
I sincerely hope that 2021 will bring better times, health and prosperity for each and every one of you.
Over the years I have helped hundreds of clients organise their finances. For me, financial planning is not limited to a single piece of advice and then moving on as is common in the industry. Instead, I like to build long term relationships and help people manage their finances to meet their needs as circumstances change. As a result, many of my clients have been with me for a number of years. They live throughout Asia and further afield but know that I am only a Skype or telephone call away.