Amy & Dan Smith's Planning for Life: 12 Financial Resolutions

Review and revamp your financial plan all year long

Instead of hauling out those familiar New Year’s resolutions about eating less and exercising more, how about focusing on something that’s also very good for you in the long run-and even sooner? We’re talking about your financial plan-your fiscal health, if you will. The approach of a new year – or any time, for that matter – is a great time to review your plan and make whatever revisions might be indicated. With that in mind, here are 12 suggested resolutions that, if followed, could help you go a long way toward attaining your financial goals.

Get your balance sheet in order – using December 31 as the effective date, update your personal balance sheet (assets versus liabilities, broadly speaking.)

Review your budget and spending habits – how close did you come to what you had planned to spend last year? Where did you go off-track and what can you do about that?

Review the titling of your accounts – account titling is more than just using the right form – it can also be a tool for estate planning. Review your account titling and determine if that’s still the arrangement you want.

Designate and update your beneficiaries – if you don’t correctly document and update your beneficiary designations, who gets what may be determined not according to your wishes but by federal or state law.

Evaluate your cash holdings – everyone should have a certain amount of their assets set aside in cash.

Revisit your portfolio’s asset allocation – are you comfortable with the current amount of risk in your portfolio?

Evaluate your sources of retirement income – every individual picture is different. Think about how secure each source is.

Review your Social Security statement – use the SSA’s online calculator to compute your benefits at various retirement ages

Review the tax efficiency of your charitable giving – give, but do so with an eye toward reducing your tax liability.

Check to see if your retirement plan is on track – retirement has a lot of moving parts that must be monitored and managed on an ongoing basis.

Make the indicated changes – go after any problem areas – or opportunities-systematically and promptly.

Set up a regular review schedule with your advisor – establish a regular schedule for getting together and reviewing your portfolio, your financial and retirement plans, and what’s happening in your life.

Since we all know that resolutions tend not to survive very long, add one more to make this a baker’s dozen. Resolve to really follow through on these – and give yourself permission to spend a day lazing around watching movies and eating ice cream when you’re done! Just one day though.

From "Amy & Dan Smith's Planning for Life" column appearing monthly in the Blue Ridge Leader, Loudoun County, VA.

The foregoing article contains general legal information only and is not intended to convey legal advice.  For legal advice regarding estate planning, the reader should contact his/her lawyer.

Daniel D. Smith is a partner in the law firm of Smith & Pugh, PLC, 161 Fort Evans Road, NE, Suite 345, Leesburg, VA 20176. (Tel: 703-777-6084, He has practiced law in Loudoun County since 1980.