As the end of 2022 nears, it’s a great time to think about some 2023 financial strategies.
Any way you cut it, this year has been a tough one to manage money, and we are all feeling it. The markets are down double digits, and everything from gas to groceries costs more. Uncertainty is everywhere, from central bankers to Wall Street traders.
All that noise can make us guess and second-guess our financial decisions, and it introduces additional layers of complexity that make managing our finances more challenging than in years past. So as the new year fast approaches, what are some ways you can try to set yourself up for financial success in 2023?
As a start, expect inflation, rising short-term interest rates and market volatility to stick around next year. If things change, take that as a happy development. But plan on things to stay the same so you’ll be prepared.
The question then becomes what to do, and my advice is to keep things simple. Tune out the noise and go back to basics. Adopt some time-tested principles and stick with them.
Here are some simple rules of the road to consider:
1. Meet Inflation Head On by Revisiting Your Budget.
There are a lot of open questions about the impact inflation will have on the economy and the markets. Rather than speculating in those areas, there’s a simpler way to respond to higher prices – adjust your spending.
Granted, there are some costs that are out of your control – essential groceries, commuting costs, urgent home repairs. Identify those and look for offsets in other parts of your life. Use inflation as an opportunity to reprioritize your buying decisions.
One good example – the holiday spending season right now. This is one of the biggest periods for spending in the year. This time around, you may find a gap in what you’ve budgeted for in the past and what actual costs look like today.
Rather than just giving in to spending more, use the moment to rethink the who, what, why and how you celebrate this year. Quality time with friends and family can be a great gift to give. Instead of a big gift exchange, maybe organize a dinner and agree to make a small donation to charity.
2. Meet Rising Interest Rates Head On by Revisiting Your Debt.
Interest rates have gone up quickly over the past year, and there are signals they will continue to rise in 2023. That makes the cost of borrowing more expensive, spanning everything from mortgages to car loans to credit cards.
As a result, managing personal debt has higher stakes. It’s a time to focus on paying down debt if you can and trying to avoid unnecessary new sources of debt such as credit cards that come with higher interest rates. Instead, look to see if there are opportunities to consolidate your credit card debt and transfer any existing balances to cards that offer lower rates.
Review your entire debt portfolio and see if you have any loans with variable rates. Factor that into your budget and consider if there are ways to lock in rates before they go higher.
Last, be careful of offers such as “buy now, pay later.” In the moment, it could look like an avenue to avoid taking on more credit card debt, but in fact it’s just debt in a different form. Perhaps the best choice is to delay making any big purchases that aren’t critical or necessary right now.
3. Meet Market Volatility Head On by Remaining Calm and Not Panicking.
Investing for most people is a long-term exercise. But it can be hard not to get distracted by day-to-day swings in the markets, particularly when the numbers are trending downward.
On one hand, we know the cardinal rule of investing is to avoid buying high and selling low. On the other, it’s only human to want to stem losses when markets are declining.
Rather than trying to anticipate the next zig or zag, it can be better to see it as an emotional exercise. The goal is to remain calm and not panic — and to remember that history has generally favored investors who don’t sell when markets take significant dips.
Avoid impulsive decisions, remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint and stick with your long-term plan.
We’re only a couple of weeks away from the end of the year, and it’s always around this time that I get asked about resolutions. I don’t have anything against making a list of things you want to improve upon next year with your finances, but if I had one piece of advice, it would be to avoid over-reaching. Make your lists simple and small and be dedicated about sticking to them; you’ll have a better shot at success.
Here are three ideas for 2023 – ratchet down your spending a little, carefully manage your debt and remain calm.
The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal or investment planning advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified tax adviser, CPA, financial planner or investment manager. (1122-26AX)
Amy Richardson is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Specialist. Amy focuses on providing internal teams, clients and prospects with education, updates and information about Schwab’s investment offerings and philosophy, including Schwab Intelligent Portfolios (Schwab’s automated investing service) and Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium (combining automated investing with a comprehensive financial plan and unlimited guidance from a CFP® professional).
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