We are well into the first month of our new year. Hopefully, by now, your Christmas decorations are put away, although I do leave up a few, including a winter tree, which is a new addition from last year. The idea was used by several of my local friends to continue the holiday lighting tradition during the dark winter months. My tree has snowmen, snowflakes and winter birds on it and it helps to celebrate the season and winter’s beauty. The birds on the tree also remind my husband to put a steady supply of bird seed out for the outdoor residents during these frigid days
The Christmas presents have also been put away, except for a couple of calendars which have now been pressed into service. In some blog posts back several years ago, I mentioned how I used to not like the month of January, particularly when our family moved from the Deep South to the Northeast. Thanks to advice in some dated articles written by Martha Stewart, I now value January as my most productive month. I love organization and planning ahead, and I detest being inside when the weather is beautiful and warm, so this month is a real bonus for me! Just as a quick review, Stewart advises using January as a month to schedule the year ahead: home repairs, car repairs, doctor appointments, (ugh) and even the more fun parts of life such as vacations, concerts, and get-togethers. It is good time to also get your records in order for the upcoming tax season and declutter areas in your home. After spending many years always searching for important documents, I have found that it has very freeing to get rid of the papers and items I don’t need anymore. To know what documents to keep, here are some valuable lists for how long to keep documents before shredding and what the IRS thinks you should keep.
There are lots of items you should have on your calendar, including Grandma’s birthday, but sometimes you don’t know precisely when to schedule something but you don’t want to forget about it, either, so it is handy to just put it in the blank space of a monthly calendar page, if you are old school like me. As you get to the month, you will probably have a better idea of when you can schedule an activity or service. There are also a number of great digital planners with many templates, based on what your needs are, including how much you want to mesh your work and personal life.
In addition to the practical and social calendars that are arranged in January, there is one more calendar that is vital to your economic health and that is a financial calendar. It is never too early to find a financial planner to guide you for retirement, college funds and general investments. You might think that financial planners are just for millionaires but there are plenty to choose from and they work with people from all income levels. Just this year, a planner was able to help me change a dormant retirement account into an account that was actually making money. I am ashamed to say how long my hard earned money just sat there, doing nothing with a reputable company. The planner now keeps an eye on my accounts and also helps me make wise tax choices. It does pay to shop around for one that you can work with and that understands your goals, but it is well worth your time. We found our financial advisor through Dave Ramsey’s SmartVestor website. They are vetted through his organization and were very responsive. Of course, being affiliated with him means that they also encourage, not pressure you, to take care of your debt. The how and why of that will be a topic for an upcoming blog.
Just like my winter tree, it is beneficial to have something that illuminates the darkness and improves your spirits, health and path forward this season. Fingers crossed, these tools that have been shared will help shed some light on your financial health and well- being.