2021 Financial Resolutions


It’s late December 2020.

And, even if most years you typically find yourself thinking, “Another new year? Who cares?,” if I were a betting man, I’d wager that the arrival of this New Year’s Day has most of you a bit more excited than in the past.

(Can’t imagine why.)

For this week's article, instead of strictly discussing retirement or taxes (which I’ll touch on below), I’m going to “take it down a notch,” (as I used to hear the radio DJs say as I was growing up in Los Angeles), and offer up four resolutions and two reminders for 2021 that we can all consider adopting in the coming year.

Resolution #1: Make more time for friends and family

When COVID hit, my two now-adult children came home and stayed for several months. As the days passed, I became keenly aware of the fact that, another pandemic aside, we may all never be under the same roof for a prolonged period again.

When children leave the nest, they tend to “trickle” out. Back and forth. Maybe a few test launches before the actual liftoff. 

It’s only well after they’ve gone that you realize they’re finally on their own.

If the coronavirus had any upside, it’s absolutely been the opportunity to spend considerable time with my older children and even watch them launch one more time. 

I could cite thousands of studies about the importance of friends and family, but you likely already know the crux of why they matter. For so many people, the isolation and separation of the last nine months have only served to drive home the fact that, while certainly lots of people thrive on their own, being around the people you care about is just plain good for you.

And for those of us without large families or bleachers full of friends? Here’s just a quick reminder: Once COVID is over, don’t let the familiarity of isolation be your new normal. Get out, introduce yourself, press the flesh and dance.

My experience has been that it’s extremely rare for a person’s last words to lament not having spent more time alone.   

Resolution #2: Volunteer at least once in 2021

Volunteering does both a body and a mind good. But, more than that, it helps those people (in this case, children) that the world is not treating well.

Consider making a resolution to volunteer more in 2021.     

Resolution #3: Learn something new

From the longest, most intensive brain study in history (conducted by Harvard Medical School), to the experts at the Alzheimer’s Association, the one thing about which most doctors agree is that you can either prevent -or at least delay -the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia by continuing to learn.1

And it’s not like you must study Russian or Latin (but you could).

No matter where you are on the age timeline, don’t wait for the signs of decline to arrive to start your mental exercise regimen. Set a resolution this year to learn something new. You can go back to school, take online art history courses, get some type of new certification, or even learn to navigate by the stars.

I have a friend who is taking online drawing classes with would-be strangers from 25 cities.  

Make 2021 The Year of Your Brain, and vow to learn fun new things.

Resolution #4: Make a bucket list

The 2007 Jack Nicholson film,The Bucket List,made listing experiences that you want to have during your lifetime a bit of a cliché, but so what?

Creating a bucket list helps hard-to-fathom adventures take shape, and that makes you infinitely more likely to accomplish them.

I encourage you to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone and fill your bucket. Your list may send you on some new and incredible quest that was only a fleeting thought until now. 

And now for two reminders

First, regarding the CARES Act: With its relaxed retirement account loan guidelines and the suspension of Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs), I recommend that you speak with your accountant and your advisor early in the new year.

And even if the above doesn’t apply to you, just remember, retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and IRAs are pre-tax, so, someday, you’re going to have to tap those and pay Uncle Sam. Talk to your advisor and your accountant now about how to limit your future tax exposure.

I say it here often, but it bears repeating: Pre-emptive tax planning (sometimes years in advance) could save you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your retirement.

Second, think of your heirs:Mark the arrival of 2021 by ensuring your estate plan is up to date, and, next, make certain your retirement account beneficiaries are correct.Remember, the person (or persons) you have listed as the beneficiaries on your retirement accounts supersede those in your will.

That’s four resolutions and two reminders for 2021.

Here’s to a fantastic and much improved New Year. Make a 5th resolution that it will be your best one yet.