21 Dec 2018 Welcome 2019: Time to consider financial resolutions
Submitted by Edward Jones
As the year winds down, you may want to look ahead to see which areas of your life you can improve in 2019. Perhaps you’ll decide to exercise more, eat healthier foods, reconnect with old friends or volunteer at a school or charitable organization. All these goals are certainly worthwhile – but you also may want to add some New Year’s financial resolutions to your list.
Here are a few ideas to consider:
• Boost contributions to your employer-sponsored retirement plan. Good news! Contribution limits will be increasing for many employer-sponsored retirement plans.
For 2019, you can contribute up to $19,000 (up from $18,500 in 2018), or $25,000 (up from $24,500 in 2018) if you’re 50 or older to your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan. It’s usually a good idea to contribute as much as you can afford to your employer’s plan, as your contributions may lower your taxable income, while any earnings growth is tax-deferred. (Keep in mind that taxes are due upon withdrawal, and withdrawals prior to age 59 1/2 may be subject to a 10 percent IRS penalty.)
At a minimum, put in enough to earn your employer’s matching contribution, if one is offered.
• Try to “max out” on your IRA. Even if you have a 401(k) or similar plan, you can probably still invest in an IRA. For 2019, you can put in up to $6,000 in a traditional or Roth IRA (up from $5,500 in 2018), or $7,000 (up from $6,500) if you’re 50 or older. (Income restrictions apply to Roth IRAs.) Contributions to a traditional IRA may be tax-deductible, depending on your income, and any earnings growth is tax-deferred. Roth IRA contributions are not deductible, but earnings growth can be withdrawn tax-free, provided you don’t start taking withdrawals until you are 59 1/2 and you’ve had your account at least five years. You can put most types of investments – stocks, bonds, mutual funds, government securities and so on – into an IRA, so it can expand your options beyond those offered in your 401(k) or similar plan.
• Build an emergency fund. Try to build an emergency fund containing three to six months’ worth of living expenses, with the money held in a low-risk, liquid account. This fund can help you avoid dipping in to your long-term investments to pay for unexpected costs, such as a major car repair.
• Control your debts. Do what you can to keep your debts under control. Ultimately, the less you have to spend on debt payments, the more you can invest for your future.
• Don’t overreact to financial market volatility. In 2018 – especially the last few months of the year – we saw considerable market volatility, with huge drops and big gains in rapid succession. What will 2019 bring? It’s always difficult – and usually futile – trying to forecast the market’s performance over the course of an entire year. But, in any case, try not to overreact to whatever ups and downs we may experience. Instead, continue pursuing an investment strategy that’s appropriate for your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon.
Following these suggestions can help you become a better investor in 2019 – and beyond.