By Carrie Sheffield
Now that 2023 is here, Veronica Dagher is here to help Smart Women Smart Money ladies conquer our new year financial goals. Veronica’s an award-winning Wall Street Journal personal finance reporter and author of the WSJ ebook, Resilience. How 20 Ambitious Women Used Obstacles to Fuel Their Success. Veronica hosts videos for WSJ’s Twitter account and is a regular guest on the Fox Business Network, Yahoo! Finance, Cheddar, and other national media.
We’re lucky she shared her insights with us, enjoy!
Q: What are the first steps ladies should take when planning for 2023?
We’re all so busy. So first, take a moment to congratulate yourself on the financial wins you’ve accomplished this past year. Have you boosted your 401(k) contribution, taught your child about the importance of saving and giving back, or found ways to stretch your grocery budget, for instance? Well done.
If you feel saddled with high-interest credit card debt, now may be the time to apply for a 0% interest balance transfer credit card. These credit cards are typically most helpful for people with credit card balances of more than $10,000. You may be able to transfer some of what you owe on your high-interest credit card to a 0% card for a fee and pay no interest for usually around six to 21 months.
Look for more ways to save. Inflation isn’t going anywhere anytime soon so anywhere you can save a dollar is helpful. Spend an hour this week and give one of your existing service providers a call or do some digging online and see if they will give you a discount. Perhaps you can save 5% by signing up for autopay, or maybe there’s a discount for people who pay their bills early.
Start off 2023 right by seeing where you can reduce your spending. Maybe there are some subscriptions or memberships you no longer use. Scan your credit card spending summary from the prior year and then challenge yourself to cancel a few recurring subscriptions that are no longer bringing you joy.
Beef up your emergency savings account or start one. While the job market is still strong, there seems to be layoff news daily, so it can’t hurt to beef up your savings. The pandemic taught some people the importance of having extra money on hand to help cope with unexpected medical expenses. Most financial planners recommend having 3 to 6 months of expenses saved in an emergency fund, such as a high-interest online savings account. While it’s no doubt tougher to save these days because of rising prices, try to automatically transfer a set amount to this account each time you get paid. Any unexpected money that comes your way can help bolster this account, too.
Q: Are New Year’s Resolutions worthwhile? If so, what type of financial resolutions do you recommend?
Making resolutions or setting goals can be helpful in keeping your finances on track. For instance, if your resolution is to only buy takeout twice a week, putting that resolution on a sticky note on your fridge or even uninstalling food delivery apps on your phone might help you stick to this cost-saving measure. Sharing your resolution with a friend, family member or even on social media can help keep you accountable as long as you surround yourself with supportive people.
Every adult should have a healthcare directive in place so your family knows your wishes should you get sick or need help caring for yourself. You can create this document online (various companies such as LegalZoom and Nolo offer them for a fee) or your healthcare provider may be able to give you the form you.
If you have children, it’s especially important to do some basic estate planning and decide who will be their guardian should anything ever happen to you and your spouse. If you’re a single mother, this is even more crucial. Online services can help you create this document along with your will. An attorney can help you with this, of course too.
I know most people don’t want to think or talk about their demise! Remember, many people only have to create these documents once. Invest the time now so you and your loved ones don’t have to worry later.
Q: What are some common mistakes you see ladies make around making financial goals for a New Year?
We often can be too hard on ourselves. Finances, as with weight loss, is all about progress, not perfection. A nutritionist recently told me that if you eat well 80% of the time you’ll be pretty set. I’d imagine the same is true for our financial goals. If we aim to batch our errands by making multiple stops on the same trip so we ultimately use less gas, but forget to do so or it’s not always possible, that’s OK. We try our best and then if we don’t hit our goal, we try again next time.
Another mistake can be trying to go it alone. You may be working countless hours every week and also have extensive responsibilities at home, not to mention trying to fit in some self care. If you don’t have time to understand all of your investments or need help creating a financial plan, consider working with a certified financial planner. Some of these folks will work with you on an hourly basis or for a limited engagement which may be more affordable.
Q: How should women think about planning for a rainy day? For a medical emergency? For job loss?
If you’re worried about losing your job, what skills can you be building up now? What can you learn that will help you feel more competitive should you need to enter another field or start a new job? Maybe there are classes on LinkedIn Learning you could explore or check out some YouTube videos on how to start your side hustle. Sites such as edX and Coursera offer free college courses.
Keep your network fresh. Arrange a coffee with a contact you haven’t seen in awhile. See how you can help them and how they might assist you. Go out of your comfort zone and attend a networking event. If you’re not a fan of these types of events, set a small goal. For instance, you might set the goal of speaking with one new person about their career and commit to staying at the event for 30 minutes. This way, it may not seem so daunting and you might actually enjoy it!
Q: What are some budgeting tools, frameworks or savings products less commonly used and known about?
If you have some extra cash lying around and aren’t sure of where to invest it, know that countless people poured some of their money into I-Bonds this year. These inflation-adjusted U.S. savings bonds will earn a 6.89% annual rate for six months, starting Nov. 1, 2022. The interest rate on I Bonds is recalculated every six months. You buy them directly from TreasuryDirect.gov and can generally invest up to $10,000 a year. There’s a 12-month lock up period so if you’ll need to be comfortable with that.