I am a Certified Financial Planner® and founder of NextGen Wealth. We help our client’s on their journey to financial freedom.
Congratulations, you’ve made it another year. Another one in the books and just that much closer to retirement. While taking a deep sigh, reflect on what you accomplished the last 12 months at your job. Did you get a promotion? Did you get a raise? Did you get a new boss?
Whatever happened, I hope it was a great year and you made some positive strides in your professional life. This anniversary serves as a great reminder for some personal financial to-dos. Let’s take a look at my best personal finance tips that you can accomplish on your work anniversary.
Review Your 401(k)
Take a look at how your 401(k) has performed over the last 12 months. Is it what you expected? Was the return commensurate with the risk? Did it perform in a manner that will get you closer to retirement? Once you’ve answered these questions, it might be time to reassess how your 401(k) is invested. If you’re invested in a good target date fund (not all are created equal) based on the date of your retirement, you may not need to do anything at all.
Target date funds are automatically rebalanced for you. However, if something has changed with your retirement picture, then you may need to change your target date fund to another year. If you’re invested in individual funds, you’ll want to examine the performance of each of those, as well as all individual funds in your 401(k), and make the appropriate fund changes and allocation updates. Regardless, if you are in individual funds, you will want to rebalance your portfolio. This could mean going back to the allocation you set 12 months ago. Or it could mean going to a slightly more conservative allocation since you’re one year closer to retirement.
What To Do With A Salary Increase
Did you get a salary increase recently or sometime over the last year? What did you do with that money? Hopefully, you set some aside and it didn’t all go to spending.
My rule of thumb when it comes to salary increases is to put at least 50% of it toward savings and take the remainder home with you. This still means your take-home pay will increase.
As for where the savings should go, the easiest place is your 401(k) if you’re not currently maxing it out. If you already contribute the maximum, then maybe it should go toward an IRA (Backdoor Roth IRA), your children’s college savings or an additional savings account earmarked for a financial goal like a big trip, second home, new car, etc.
If you are saving this money for one of those latter goals, then I would highly recommend automating it. This means that once that money hits your checking account, it is automatically transferred out to the appropriate account the next day. Remember, pay yourself first.
Live By The Rule Of Thirds
Since we’re talking about saving, now is a good time to bring up the rule of thirds. If you’re not familiar, it’s a plan for having a third of your paycheck go to taxes, a third to savings and a third to living. It’s a simple but very effective strategy. If you don’t have to save a third for taxes because you’re in a lower tax bracket, that just means more can go to savings and living.
If you’re able to save a third of your salary, then I can almost guarantee you’re going to be way ahead of all your friends — and that much closer to financial freedom and retirement. Granted, saving a third might seem like a daunting task if you’ve never done it before. If that’s the case, then start slowly and work your way up. If you’re at 15%, then bump it up to 20% this year and put the majority — if not all — of your salary increases and raises towards savings. You will be there before you know it.
Review Your Stock Options/Restricted Stock Units
Your work anniversary serves as a great reminder to review how your stock options and/or restricted stock units are performing. This also means reviewing how many are now vested and what the tax consequences of liquidation look like. I would recommend working with a CPA or Certified Financial Planner® if you’re not well-versed in this area.
Stock options and restricted stock units can pose some tricky tax situations, so you want to ensure that you’re making the right decision so that you don’t get hit with a tax bill you weren’t expecting.
Negotiate A Raise
Don’t think it’s possible to negotiate a raise with your boss? Think again. It’s the 21st century, and things have become much more fluid and open to negotiation in the workforce. Employers want to maintain their top-tier talent. If that’s you, then they want to make sure they’re keeping you happy.
With that being the case, I’m not talking about your annual review. I’m talking about a conversation outside of your annual review. If you’re not a stellar employee and you’re not able to make your case, then there’s no sense in having the conversation. If, on the other hand, you can prove your worth by what you’ve accomplished over the last year and how you’re consistently getting contacted by other employers and recruiters, then you can make a much better case for a salary increase. It’s much easier for your employer to pay you more than to find a replacement if you’ve made yourself irreplaceable.
You would be surprised at how much more apt they are to having the conversation if you fit the mold of irreplaceable. If you’re not quite there yet, then make it your goal over the next 12 months to become viewed that way. I can assure you it’s worth it.
So, there you have it: The five must-dos for this work anniversary and every one after. Put a reminder on your calendar so you’re ready for next year.