Your Ultimate 2014 Financial Calendar
Go to the gym. Read more books. Quit biting your nails. With so many resolutions for 2014 on your list, taking care of your finances might feel like it can wait … until next month.
But there’s really no time like the present to start taking control of your money.
So in the spirit of making 2014 your best money year yet, we’ve put together a comprehensive, manageable financial calendar of all the must-do money tasks that could help you achieve your goals in the coming months—whether it’s buying a house, saving for retirement, growing your family or just about anything else.
Once you’ve read through the to-dos for each month, you can create calendar reminders through your email or phone to help keep you on track. And since we’ve picked months for each task, rather than specific days, you get to choose the days of the week that work best for scheduling those to-dos. In other words, there’s no excuse not to start setting those reminders today!
1. Reset Your Budget
While the New Year is a great time to look forward, it’s also a good opportunity to look back at the past year—especially when it comes to your saving and spending habits. If you’ve been using LearnVest’s free iPhone or iPad app, you can easily review your spending from 2013 to see where your money went each month. (And if you haven’t been using the app, it’s never too late to start!)
Once you have a clear sense of your financial habits from 2013, you can figure out how to tweak your budget for the coming year. And don’t forget to factor in occasional necessities, like vet bills, insurance premiums and maintenance costs. Of course, you’ll need to adjust your budget as your needs change throughout the year, but January is a good time to reassess your spending and saving.
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2. Organize Your Savings Accounts
LearnVest suggests putting 20% or more of your income toward financial priorities (this can include savings and debt payments)—but what you’re squirreling away for is up to you. Maybe it’s an African safari, a renovated kitchen or a comfortable emergency fund.
Regardless of the goal, figure out exactly how much you need to save, and then create a separate savings account for each goal, so you can easily track your progress and gauge if you need to ramp up your efforts throughout the year.
3. Set Your Retirement Savings on Auto-Pilot
Retirement contributions should be a priority, so make it a point now to set up automatic, monthly contributions of at least 1% to 2% of your income into a Roth or Traditional IRA or a 401(k) through your employer. If you have a 401(k), your goal should be to contribute at least enough to get your full employer match, as well as increase your contribution by 1% every six months, working your way up to 10% of your income over time.
Already doing this? Then it’s time to increase your contribution percentage. For 2014, the limits for all three accounts are the same as they were in 2013, so you’ll want to do your best to work toward maxing them out.
4. Put Your Annual Bonus to Good Use
Financial responsibility doesn’t have to mean all work and no play. If you received a year-end bonus, pat yourself on the back and enjoy it by spending 10% on something fun—and then allocate the remainder toward a financial priority. (You have until April 15 to max out your IRA. Just saying!)
5. Pay Your Tax Bill If You’re Self-Employed, Own a Small Business or Freelance
You have until January 15th to pay your fourth-quarter estimated tax payments for 2013. And be sure to put reminders on your calendar to pay quarterlies on time for 2014, as well.
6. Map Out Your Annual Travel Budget
Vacations are a common financial goal, but taking your own Tour de France (or Asia … or South America …) doesn’t come cheap. So make a list of any expected trips this year—like a friend’s wedding or a relative’s big birthday celebration—and start saving for them now in a separate account earmarked for travel. And then plan any other getaways around these trips, as your budget permits. While lounging on the beach each February may seem like a “necessary” cure for the winter doldrums, financial priorities should never suffer for travel.