Women with Interest - Must-Do's for Financial SuccessMust-Do's for Financial Success

Invest in Yourself

The first of the year is a natural time to set goals, but really you can set them whenever and for whatever you like. In terms of your financial future, set a goal this year that is attainable and contributes to your overall wealth. No one will ever watch your family’s money as closely as you, so take an active role in its future. It has been proven that writing down your goals helps you achieve them, so stick the goal on the fridge, or get acquainted with a personal finance management tool that can set up and track your budget and goals for you. And yes… paying down debt CAN be a goal. If you are uncomfortable jumping into accounts or investments on your own, seek out trusted advice and qualified professionals.

In CNN's column, "Manage your Money like a Woman," they suggest that since women, on average, earn less but live longer than men, they need greater equity exposure to reach their goals. Author and Certified Financial Planner™ Eleanor Blayney suggests a simple formula for determining how much of your portfolio to put in stocks: 120 or 115 minus your age, vs. 110 for men.

The only sure remedy to reach your goals is to pump up your savings rate. The standard advice is to save 10% of your income, but women should aim for 12.5%.

Organize Your Financial Life

It doesn’t have to be high-tech, or even color-coded, but take an afternoon and organize the financial paperwork you’ve amassed over time. Separate receipts from insurance claims and make sure you have all of your pertinent tax forms in one place. The method doesn’t matter as much as the finished product. In the end you should have a file online, or in a drawer that is easily accessible, organized and safe.

Files typically are separated into categories, such as:
  • Previous Tax Papers, filed by year, up to seven years
  • Income
  • Medical
  • Child Care
  • Real Estate
  • Donations
  • Education or Student Loans
  • Misc. and Receipts
  • Auto

Don’t forget to shred anything that is out-dated or irrelevant.

Automate Almost Everything

With the explosion of tech devices and online services, you can almost entirely automate your financial life. Sounds fantastic, right? Use Online Banking to set automatic payments and automatic transfers to Savings accounts. It takes a few minutes to set-up, but you end up saving time in the long run. This is a great way to keep up with your goals, because you can pay yourself first without temptation. Half of female breadwinners say they've cut back on saving for retirement to spend more on their kids and grandkids, according to Ameritrade. "Your retirement savings should be on track and automatic, so you don't accidentally pay your daughter's car insurance instead of making an IRA contribution." says San Diego financial planner, Ginita Wall.

If you are a current True Blue Online® user, click here to learn how to add payees to your bill payment account.

Follow Tax Law Changes

Keep up to date on the newly-enacted tax laws and changes from the IRS. These changes will be reflected in the most current versions of tax software, but it helps to know a little background before getting started. Some of the highlights include:

  • Three extra days to file your return. You will have until Monday, April 18, 2011, to file your 2010 return and pay any taxes due. You get the extra time because Emancipation Day, a holiday in the District of Columbia, is observed this year on Friday, April 15. By law, D.C. holidays impact tax deadlines in the same way that federal holidays do.

  • Special charitable donations for older IRA owners. An IRA owner age 70½ or over can directly transfer, tax-free, up to $100,000 per year to eligible charities. Known as a qualified charitable distribution (QCD), this option is available for distributions from IRAs, regardless of whether the owners itemize their deductions. This provision is available through 2011. To qualify, the funds must be contributed directly by the IRA trustee to an eligible charity. Amounts transferred are not taxable and no deduction is available for the transfer.

  • Exemptions and itemized deductions no longer phased out. Overall income limits for personal and dependency exemptions and itemized deductions do not apply. Before 2010, taxpayers whose incomes were above certain levels lost part or all of their exemptions and part of their itemized deductions. For taxpayers at all income levels, limitations continue to apply to particular itemized deductions, such as medical and dental expenses, certain miscellaneous itemized deductions and casualty and theft losses.

If you have further questions or would like more information for your specific tax situations, please seek advice from a tax professional.

Keep Your Identity Yours

Do a check of your credit report with one of the three major credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian, TransUnion. Also, consider updating your passwords online for the secure sites you log into. Routinely changing passwords and checking your credit report could stop fraud early.