Mike Earl, CFP®, CPWA®
Consider this list akin to a New Year's Resolution list, only these items are meant to be [mostly] easy to accomplish.
Whenever possible, I included a hyperlink to a past article we've written on each subject -- in case you want to dig deeper into that subject.
1. Increase your 401k contribution percentage, even if by just 1%. Better yet, turn on automatic annual increases to your 401k contribution rate.
If you have already been contributing the maximum allowable amount to your 401k, note the 401k maximum for 2024 went up to $23,000 for those under age 50 (and $30,500 for those over 50).
2. Max out your 2024 HSA contribution and invest a chunk of that money into stocks. Consider this as a supplementary retirement account. HSAs are the only account that offers a perfect trifecta of tax benefits: a tax deduction on the front end, tax-free growth, and tax-free withdrawals.
3. Tally up how much money you've earned in your lifetime. You can pull your most recent Social Security statement from ssa.gov, and this will outline your life's earnings. Plug those numbers into a spreadsheet and find the sum. How does that number make you feel? (hat tip for this one to my favorite personal finance book of all-time, Your Money or Your Life).
4. Track every penny you spend for two weeks -- manually. Start a Google Drive Sheet or an Excel spreadsheet (or grab a notepad). Simply list the date, a description of the expense, and the dollar amount. Aim to enter expenses as they occur (i.e., utilize the spreadsheet each day), which will help you spend money more mindfully. At the end of two weeks, tally up your spending. Review your two weeks of spending and see if you would do anything differently.
5. Increase your mortgage payment, even if it's just by $50 per month. You can update your auto-drafted payment to include an additional principal amount.
6. Invest $1,000 in a custodial account (UTMA) for one of your children, or grandchildren, or a niece/nephew.
7. Invest $1,000 in a high-flying stock or other investment you've always been intrigued by. If you want to do this at Raymond James, we can place this trade for you.
8. Donate an amount to charity that makes you uncomfortable (hat tip to Austin on this one). The amount is unique to you. For some, a $1,000 donation to charity would be a stretch goal. For others, it's more like $10,000 or even $100,000 to charity.
9. Start adding monthly contributions to a non-retirement investment account (also called a "brokerage account" or an "after-tax/taxable investment account"). We can easily help you get this set up. The money can be invested as aggressively or as conservatively as you would like. You can start with as little as $50/month. Find an amount that will challenge you a bit.
10. Create a plan of action for an upcoming bonus or tax refund. We like the idea of using some of this money for something fun like a vacation, some for long-term investing, and some for any near-term expenses like a home project.