Everyone knows the start of a new year is a time to think about health.
According to local financial advisers, it’s also a time when many people do want to get themselves in better fiscal shape.
“Our advice would be the same regardless of the time of year,” said Todd Burkhalter, a managing partner with Catalyst Wealth Management in south Forsyth. “But this time of year is a natural break for people. It’s time for a fresh start.”
Burkhalter’s partner, David Pierce, said December and January are often some of the busiest times of the year for financial advisers.
“People have a little time off and they just got forms from their [human resources] department, so they start thinking about questions they might have or planning considerations,” Pierce said.
David Leathers, a financial adviser with LPL Financial in downtown Cumming, agreed.
“Typically, now is the time to reach out to clients and schedule time for an annual review,” Leathers said. “Typically, right after the start of a new year, you want to look at all the information from the previous year and see where you can make adjustments for the following year.”
All the financial advisers agreed that when starting to focus more on finances, people should get some advice.
Burkhalter and Pierce said financial advisers can help guide people toward better fiscal decisions.
“We can help them identify their wealth objectives and get them to better narrow things down to reach whatever they’re trying to accomplish,” Burkhalter said.
Added Pierce: “It’s like a lens or a filter. We can run many experiments on paper to find what the best scenarios are for their individual needs.”
While he had a good handle on his financial life, customer Jack Lyons said he found greater insight when he started using a financial adviser.
“These folks help break things down and find the gaps in your plan,” Lyons said. “They helped me find places where I could be saving more and planning better for my retirement.”
But that advice doesn’t always have to come from professionals.
Burkhalter said sometimes a family member or friend can also help.
“A lot of times, it’s just getting another set of eyes on what you’re doing,” he said.
Pierce said one situation that often bothers him is older generations not sharing their wisdom with descendants.
“It’s important for different generations to speak to each other about money,” he said, noting that same goes for married couples.
“When you’re a married couple, you’re a team and you’re against things that take away your wealth together, so don’t point fingers,” he said. “Get on the same team.”
Pierce said often one partner will manage all the finances, but that’s a bad idea.
“It’s important for both to be aware of all the finances.”
When getting started, Leathers said the first step is learning to live on a budget.
“You have to learn how to create and live within a budget, and that can be the hardest part,” he said.
An important part of the budget should be setting aside funds for paying down debt.
Leathers said while some debt makes sense, high interest loans, such as credit cards, should be paid off as quickly as possible.
“Certain debts make sense, like mortgages,” Leathers said. “You can borrow a 30-year loan for 3.9 percent and that’s a manageable debt.”
But credit cards, which typically carry interest rates from 16 to 20 percent, don’t make sense, Leathers said.
While paying down high-interest debt should be a priority, savings shouldn’t be overlooked.
“It needs to be some combination of saving and paying off debt,” Burkhalter said. “If you get all you’re debt paid off, but have no savings and then have some emergency, you’re going to be right back in debt because you’re going to have to go to a credit card or some other loan.”
Burkhalter said a long-term goal is to be able to save at least 15 percent of one’s income.
“But the main thing is to just get started,” he said. “You’re probably not going to be able to go from saving nothing to saving 15 percent of your income, but maybe you can save 1 percent.”
Leathers added that it’s important to set realistic goals.
“If you have a handful of credit cards, make an effort to get one paid off and make it go away, things like that,” he said.
“You want to make goals that can be accomplished. Take baby steps.”