Michelle Singletary: Get your hou$e in order
IT'S THAT TIME again. Time to make resolutions that in years past you've probably broken before Valentine's Day. In its annual New Year's resolution survey, Allianz Life Insurance found among the top promises that people make: exercise or diet, better money management, spending more time with friends or relatives, volunteering and getting rid of bad habits.
IT'S THAT TIME again.
Time to make resolutions that in years past you've probably broken before Valentine's Day. In its annual New Year's resolution survey, Allianz Life Insurance found among the top promises that people make: exercise or diet, better money management, spending more time with friends or relatives, volunteering and getting rid of bad habits.
But more than 25 percent of survey respondents said that they would neither make New Year's resolutions nor keep the ones they make. Allianz found that 84 percent said they wouldn't include financial planning in resolutions for 2013.
I thought this was odd, that people who want to get better at managing money don't see the need for overall financial planning. Well, the reason people see the two differently is that they don't think they earn enough money to worry about financial planning.
"There is this fear that people are throwing their hands up about getting their financial future in order," said Katie Libbe, vice president of consumer insights for Allianz.
It's worth setting New Year's resolutions for your financial life. If you are not happy about how you handle your money, make a change. It's also not enough to just focus on one area such as getting out of debt or starting the emergency fund. Your financial New Year's resolution should entail looking at getting your financial house in order.
But before you make promises, you need to decide how best to go about keeping your resolutions. You need to determine whether you're a do-it-yourself type or whether you need help to guide you to better money management.
Take exercise, for example. For the last year, I've made endless promises to get into a routine of regular exercise. I keep that pledge for about a week or two and then give up. Some people can get home-exercise equipment or videos and work out religiously without any push. That's not me.
I hate exercising. Knowing that about myself, I hired a personal trainer several years ago. I'm a penny pincher, but I also believe that it's OK to pay for services that you won't or can't do yourself. It was worth the money just for the motivation. So, in 2013, I'm getting my trainer back.
Think of financial planning as you might think about getting a personal trainer, Libbe says. If the slogan "Just Do It" doesn't work for you, let someone push you to help yourself.
And you don't have to be a high-net-worth individual to seek the assistance of a financial planner. They can do more than invest your money. Good planners will focus on getting your financial house in order. They can help you develop a budget, and can look at your debts, tax situation, retirement and college savings, estate-planning and insurance needs.
One of the best ways to find a financial planner is to ask around. You also can find an adviser through the Financial Planning Association (fpanet.org). You can search for a planner by city, state, ZIP code or specialty. To find a fee-only planner, check with the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (napfa.org), which is the professional association of fee-only financial planners. The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (cfp.net) also has a search tool for planners. Be sure to ask how your financial planner is paid, whether by commission, hourly fee, annual retainer or percentage of assets managed.
Before making resolutions, complete a net-worth statement. Looking at assets and liabilities may be the harsh wake-up call you need.
Even if you've failed to keep your financial resolutions in the past, try again this year. What's the alternative? Do nothing and get the same results you've been getting?