Is improving your financial health on your list of new year’s resolutions? Financial security is a goal for many, but achieving it takes planning and work. If you want to end your 2024 in better financial health than you started it, setting goals now can help you get there.
These short- and long-term strategies from experts can help you improve your finances this year.
How to Improve Your Finances in 2024
When it comes to improving your finances — whether that’s leveling up your income, boosting your net worth or meeting other specific goals — the most important step is just getting started. But there are certain financial goals you can set that will result in better financial health.
These include both short-term goals you can accomplish throughout 2024 and long-term goals that might take a few years to achieve.
Ohan Kayikchyan, a certified financial planner and founder of Ohan The Money Doctor, says that financial literacy is a crucial first step. Knowing how your money works for you and what you’ll need to do to meet your goals will help you actually get there.
“Dedicate some time to reading books or blogs, listening to podcasts or watching YouTube videos to gain competency in finance. With the overload of financial information available online, whether on a social platform or the internet in general, it is worth noting to do your homework in advance and obtain information from reputable and trusted sources,” Kayikchyan said in an email.
Short-Term Goals for Improving Your Finances
Short-term goals can help you improve your finances this year and give you the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing them. According to Kayikchyan, these goals can be accomplished within a year and can include things like saving for smaller purchases (like a new phone or laptop).
Planning for the future can also be established in the short term, even if it will take you longer to actually reach the goal you’re planning for.
1. Perform a Financial Checkup
Evaluating your financial situation at the beginning of the year can help you establish what other goals you’ll need to set, and is an important task to complete regularly.
“January is a great time to perform a financial check-up to ensure your financial foundation is secure by reviewing your past year, taking an inventory of your current net worth, using the insights you gain to plan for 2024 and setting and implementing goals to amplify your wealth,” Alissa Krasner Maize, founder and financial advisor at Amplify My Wealth, said in an email.
One step you can take is to check your credit score and pull your free credit reports, Maizes said. That way, you can ensure they are accurate and get an idea of your ability to borrow money or achieve other goals in the coming year.
2. Create a Goal Timeline
“How long it takes to reach your goals often depends on how much you need to save for the goals and the time horizon of when you need to achieve them. Creating a timeline of all your goals is vital to ensure you balance achieving competing goals that may overlap with one another,” Maizes said.
Maybe you want to build an emergency fund with six months of expenses, take an international vacation in the fall and pay down some credit card debt. Depending on your expendable income, you’ll likely need to prioritize these and save for one goal more aggressively first.
3. Reconfigure Your Budget
A strong budget is key to good financial health. The new year is a good time to make sure your budget is working for you by reviewing your expenses and adjusting spending according to your goals.
“Reviewing your expenses from 2023 will help you create your 2024 expense plan. Make a ‘checklist’ of what you value most alongside your last three months of bank and credit card statements, asking yourself if what you spend your money on aligns with what means the most to you,” Maizes said.
With your expenses in front of you, you can identify areas to reduce spending in order to put more cash toward your top goals.
4. Adjust Your Investment Strategy
“At least once a year, it is crucial to review your investment asset allocation to ensure it is aligned with your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon,” Kayikchyan said.
As part of your financial checkup, you should check in on your retirement plan and other investments you may have.
Long-Term Goals for Improving Your Finances
You can adjust your budget and pull your credit reports on a short timeline, but other financial goals will take longer. Taking steps toward these goals now can help you improve your finances along the way.
1. Build Your Emergency Fund
Your emergency fund is a critical tool for financial security, and most experts suggest saving between three and six months of expenses to cover the unexpected. It can take time to reach the full amount, but having some amount of money to fall back on is better than nothing.
Start automating and transferring whatever amount you can afford to save monthly into this account, Maizes said.
She also recommended keeping your emergency fund in a high-yield savings account so it earns interest while it grows.
2. Increase Retirement Savings
“The new year is also a good time to boost or adjust your monthly savings towards your retirement, whether it is your monthly contributions to your IRA or workplace retirement plan,” Kayikchyan said.
You won’t reach your retirement goals overnight, but increasing your savings can help you reach them sooner, and ensure you take advantage of compound growth on your investments. Set your goal for how much to save per month based on your age, risk tolerance and desired retirement income.
3. Pay Down Debts
Carrying debt, especially credit card debt, is expensive. Paying it down should always be a priority if you want to improve your finances and boost your credit score. Depending on how much debt you have, it could take more than a year to reach a zero balance, but making regular payments will chip away and save you in interest.
4. Increase Your Earning Potential
“An often overlooked financial goal involves leveling up your earning potential,” Maizes said.
This could include looking for new job opportunities or ways to bring in side income. Finding a job will take a bit longer, and depending on your side hustle, it could be a bit before you break even, but starting now can set you up for future success.
“Whether you are an entrepreneur or a W-2 employee, consider creating or overhauling your LinkedIn, asking for references and posting on LinkedIn, networking on and off LinkedIn, updating your resume and gaining more skills,” Maizes said.
5. Identify Your Priorities
Everyone will have different financial goals. Maybe you’re saving for a down payment on your first home or building an education fund for children.
No matter what your priorities are, larger savings goals take time to reach, so starting to put away even a few dollars in 2024 for these goals can set you on the right track for reaching them.
Use The Right Tools to Improve Your Finances This Year
Improving your finances is important but it shouldn’t take up all of your time.
“I suggest leveraging technology, establishing systems and using automation for as many financial tasks as humanly possible. This way, you will free up some time to spend on activities that you enjoy the most,” Kayikchyan said.
Budgeting apps, automated savings and working with a financial advisor are all great supplementary tools that can help you improve your finances this year without expending all of your time and energy.
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Update 01/29/24: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.