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A Financial Calendar for 2010 and Beyond

A new year can be an excellent time to consider how you're doing financially and set goals for the year ahead. Pursuing your goals may be easier when you focus on one specific priority each month. This calendar of ideas will stimulate your thinking about dollars-and-cents objectives.

January: Pay off any holiday season credit card bills as soon as the charges show up on your monthly statement. If spring and summer arrive and you're still paying interest on last year's gifts, then the cost of those items will continue to rise. Try to pay more than the minimum monthly payment if you cannot afford to pay the entire bill immediately.

February: Consider getting tax-related documents ready ahead of time to avoid a last-minute rush. Make sure that you have received all necessary paperwork from your employer and your financial institutions. Gather receipts that can document tax deductions.

March: Review your retirement plan, insurance policies, and other financial accounts to make sure your beneficiary designations are correct. Make changes if necessary. Note that if you are married and participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you are required to name your spouse as your beneficiary. If you desire to designate someone else, your spouse is required to consent in writing.

April: If you don't have a will, consider contacting an estate planning attorney to start the process of creating one. If you do have a will, determine whether any revisions are necessary.

May: Review memberships, premium cable channels, and other discretionary items to determine whether they are being used on a regular basis. For those that are not being used, consider cancelling and allocating this money to more productive areas.

June: Warmer weather prompts many households to plan a vacation. Determine whether you could enjoy an affordable vacation near your home, a getaway during the off-season, or a "staycation" where you plan something pleasant locally.

July: Make sure you have adequate emergency savings that you can access for medical bills, home repairs, a period of unemployment, or another unexpected event. Many financial planners recommend keeping between three and six months' worth of income on hand.

August: Consider reducing transportation expenses by working at home periodically (if you can), carpooling with a coworker, or taking public transit if it is available. When maintaining a vehicle, practices such as keeping your tires properly inflated, being mindful of sudden stops and starts, and driving within the speed limit on highways can result in better gas mileage.

September: If you live in a colder climate, a programmable thermostat, new windows or doors, and other improvements may help reduce wasted energy. Certain improvements may qualify for utility company rebates, which reduce your out-of-pocket cost, or tax credits.

October: Set a budget for year-end holiday gifts. You can economize by buying on sale, purchasing fewer gifts, or participating in group gifts with other family members.

November: Consider scheduling a year-end review with your financial advisor. As part of the discussion, determine whether your investments reflect your risk tolerance and time horizon. Ask your advisor how you can make changes if necessary.

Determine whether you are on track to invest as much as you can afford for retirement. If you are not investing the maximum permitted by your employer-sponsored plan or your IRA, consider whether you can afford to increase your contribution for the following year. Consult your financial advisor about whether you are on track to invest as much as you will need for living expenses during your later years. If not, consider strategies that will help you save more.


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