What can I learn from looking back on my financial situation in 2017?
If your financial plan for 2017 didn't work out the way you wanted it to, don't beat yourself up. Instead, ask yourself the following questions to determine what you can learn from reflecting on your financial situation in the last year.
Did you meet your financial goals and expectations for 2017? Perhaps you started the year with some financial goals in mind. You wanted to establish a budget that you could stick to, or maybe you hoped to build up your emergency savings fund throughout the year. If you fell short of accomplishing these or other goals, think about the reasons why. Were your goals specific? Did you develop a realistic timeframe for when they would be achieved? If not, learn to set attainable and measurable goals for your finances in the new year.
How did your investments perform? A year-end review of your overall portfolio can help you determine whether your asset allocation is balanced and in line with your time horizon and goals. If one type of investment performed well during the year, it could represent a greater percentage of your portfolio than you initially wanted. As a result, you might consider selling some of it and using that money to buy other types of investments to rebalance your portfolio. Keep in mind that selling investments could result in a tax liability. And remember, asset allocation does not guarantee a profit or protect against loss; it is a method to help manage investment risk. All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there is no guarantee that any investment strategy will be successful.
Are your retirement savings on track? Did you contribute the amount you wanted in 2017? Or did unexpected financial emergencies force you to borrow or withdraw money from your retirement savings? In that case, you can help your savings recover by contributing the most you can to your employer-sponsored retirement plan and taking advantage of employer matching (if it's available to you). Contributing to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan can help you save more consistently because your contributions are automatically deducted from your salary, helping you avoid the temptation to skip a month now and then.