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5 ways to get a jump on your 2015 finances

Now is a great time to start planning for the year ahead. These five tips can help you make the most of your spending and saving in 2015.

1. Rethink your spending with the economy in mind.

Economists generally believe that inflation promises to stay low in 2015, and interest rates likely won’t rise until spring, if then. That means getting a mortgage or auto loan may remain affordable, and you shouldn’t see a huge bump in daily expenses.

Take a look at the short-, medium- and long-term spending goals you’ve outlined in the past. You may find some of your medium- and long-term goals have moved into a shorter time frame with the passing of another year. If a major purchase, such as a home renovation or a new car, is on your agenda, you may want to take advantage of the continuing low interest rate environment.

That said, prioritizing spending with an eye toward retirement savings remains a must. Since low inflation often means your expenditures stay the same, consider putting any extra income, such as a raise or bonus, into retirement savings. You likely won’t need the extra money to cover your current expenses while the extra boost in savings can grow significantly over time.

2. Revisit your investment portfolio.

A lot can happen in the markets in a year. Use this time to sit down with your advisor and review the performance of your retirement and other investment portfolios. During that process, you may find you need to rebalance your portfolio to adjust for the gains and losses you incurred during the last year. Big swings in either direction may mean your asset allocation — the mix in your investments between various classes of stocks, bonds and cash — has shifted and may no longer reflect your investing goals. Rebalancing may help set things right.

In addition, a close look at your investments can also prompt you to reevaluate how much risk you’re willing to take. Your goals and the markets may have changed during the year, causing your risk tolerance to shift as well.

3. Prepare for any changes in your family life.

Is there anything going on with your loved ones that may take special planning this year? Perhaps your parents are moving to senior housing or in need of extra support — financial and otherwise. Are your kids headed to college, graduating or buying a first home? Any big changes can mean a change in expenses for you. You’ll need to make sure you’ve accounted for those changes in your spending and savings plans.

4. Review your auto and home insurance policies.

Have your circumstances changed in ways that require you to update your home and auto insurance policies? If you’ve recently transitioned from an office job to working at home, you may need to adjust the liability coverage on your homeowner’s policy. By the same token, you may qualify for auto insurance discounts because you no longer commute to the office.

Even if your circumstances haven’t changed, reviewing and updating your policies may save you money through discounts or decreased premiums. Getting quotes from other insurance agents can help determine if you should make a change.

5. Put yourself first.

Make 2015 the year of your retirement planning. As you look toward the year ahead, make sure your retirement savings are high on the list of your financial priorities. Revisit with your advisor what you’ve determined you need to pursue a more confident retirement, then make any adjustments necessary now that the new year is on the way.

Are you contributing the maximum allowed to any employer-sponsored retirement accounts? Are you receiving the full match if one is available? Once you hit the max at work, you may also want to supplement your employer-sponsored plan with savings in a Roth or traditional IRA or even an after-tax investment account. Your advisor can help determine the best ways you can make the most of your retirement planning in the year ahead.

Now is a great time to start planning for the year ahead. These five tips can help you make the most of your spending and saving in 2015.

Six Things You Need to Know to be Great in Business Today

The Rocky Balboa franchise first came into our lives in 1976. Detroit and Motown both were still churning out hits — cars and records, respectively. Akron was still the tire capital of the world. Rocky gave the world this quote that remains as true today for business as when these words were mumbled by the prizefighter almost 40 years ago: “It’s about how hard you get hit . .  . How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”

 

While this quote is still true, much in 21st century leadership is very different than it was just a few years ago. Who will tell you the changes, the secrets to success? Some people have not yet caught on to the changes and others want to keep them secret, like all the ingredients in a recipe.

Elements of Greatness

  1. Emotional Stamina. The simple truth is you will have many ups and downs as a leader; lots of starts and stops. You have to be mentally prepared.  You are relentless in your pursuit of being the best. This takes mental stamina. What is needed to acquire and maintain that stamina may be different for each person. The end result needs to be the same: to acquire mental toughness.
  2. Align Your Goals with Employee Goals. Notice I said align your goals. I did not say employees need to align themselves with your goals as a leader. In the 1960’s and 1970’s a CEO could dictate hours, job descriptions and even dictate transfers.  In our 21st century world, it’s the leader’s job to be aligned with every employee. It is not the employee’s job to be aligned with leadership.
  3. Communicate a Big Vision. And turn the vision into small tasks. To lead, you need to see the vision, the bigger picture. Then you need to communicate it in a way that gets buy-in from your troops. Implementing your vision will require small tasks. You need to either be willing to do them or find those who are gifted at those small pieces. The challenge for you is to value both: the people who see the bigger picture and those who can implement it.
  4. Stay Relevant. Twenty-first century leaders need to know how important and how much energy is involved in the successful and ongoing goal to be relevant. An employee’s skills are not current and relevant when you as the leader say they are outdated. They are relevant only when they demonstrate they are relevant. Training to stay relevant is not just an event. Not a Lean Sigma or a Six Sigma event. Training is a process: an ongoing process and it needs to be continuous — even if you are the CEO.
  5. Be Consistent. Consistency is a huge value. The invisible fence only works for your dog because it is consistent. As soon as it stops working, or works intermittently, it ceases to be an effective tool. McDonald’s is not the best food or the cheapest. It is, however, consistent, whether you purchase it in Paris, France or Paris, Texas.
  6. Flexibility is Huge. In the 21st century you have to be fluid. It is valuable to know when to adapt your goals and when to hold fast to them. To be light and flexible is a skill you need to identify and implement.

The railroad was king, and then it was not. Newspapers led their market, and then they did not. When I grew up in in Akron, Ohio we were tire capital of the world, and then we were not. The traits of leadership evolve with the sands of time. Follow these six tips to make sure that you are a 21st century leader conducting business in a 21st century manner.

About the Author
Leslie G. Ungar, president of Electric Impulse Communications, Inc., which helps you find your competitive edge. Electric Impulse, Inc. is an idea factory for leaders who want to think and act with a 21st century mindset. She can be reached at leslie@electricimpulse.com.

 

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