5 Things you should do about your finances before 2014

The New Year is a great time for fresh starts. Begin 2014 on better financial footing by making these five basic money moves now.

The New Year is all about heralding the new and shaking off the old. It’s when you make resolutions, clean house and take stock of what has been as well as looking towards what is to come. But if past years show us anything; a majority of resolution makers end up breaking their pacts by March (some even earlier!) and go right back to operating in the same way they always have. 

It’s a human trait to thrive somewhat on routine and habit but this could end up costing you in terms of your finances.

So, instead of lengthy resolutions that may be difficult to keep; here are 5 money moves you can make right now before 2014 shows up to take advantage of your passion for improvement as long as it lasts!

1. Get serious about retirement

So, you thought you would resolve to save more money in retirement. You may do this the first few months and give up. How about preventing your future self from reneging on that promise? If you previously opted to contribute less than 11% toward your EPF; change that now! Also, check out endowment plans, the Private Retirement Scheme and other automated savings plans that you can sign up with to keep you on track.

2. Get ready to do your taxes

Many Malaysians wait till the last minute to file their taxes. In their haste, they don’t maximise the exemptions and rebates they may be entitled to. Start now. Go through taxation exemptions and rebates to see how many for which you qualify. Once you’ve got a list of eligible exemptions; collect receipts together and file them for easy reference later on. Calculate the amounts you have to see if you are maximising the allotments. Thinking of a new laptop? Instead of buying in January; buy a day earlier so the receipt is valid for the 2013 filing. Of course, the point isn’t to buy things you don’t need just to claim the exemption; it’s about planning the things you do need to work in your favour.

3. Go bank shopping

In your zeal to start off on a better financial foot; why not go bank shopping? Look at how your credit cards, fixed deposits and other investments (if any) have paid off for you in the past year. If it hasn’t done as well as it could have; look to switch. As the year progresses and work commitments pick up; you won’t be thinking much about your bank and thus may lose out on better interest rates so the best time to do so is now.

How about a better credit card with more benefits; a fixed deposit with a higher return or even refinancing your home at a more competitive rate? A lot of promotional rates for 2013 will end in a few days so check with the bank you are interested in about when the cut-off for eligibility for promotional rates happen so you don’t get stuck with a dud product.

4. Automate your savings

We all resolve that in the New Year we will save more money but this rarely happens. Sometimes it does for a few months and then you’re right back where you started. If you really do want to save more, automate your savings by taking out a standing instruction to transfer money to your savings account after your salary is credited every month. This way, it will be a lot harder to go back on your resolution.

5. Do your own personal auditing

How did the year progress for you financially? Did you make enough good money decisions? What about your net worth and outlook for income in the coming year? Companies do this every year; they take stock of what happened before and start a budget for the year to come. It’s a good idea if you did too.

Go through your finances, on your own if you don’t have a financial planner, and see where you can cut, save or increase to make the most of your estimated income. If your current income isn’t enough; look to making more through additional jobs or updating that resume for a trip to greener pastures. Sometimes, to look forward, you have to look back so study 2013 to see how you can make 2014 even better.

The best part about new year’s is the opportunity to start over. Of course, the opportunity is there throughout the year but the energy and tools available to you at the year-end are much more conducive to fresh starts. Take advantage of this.

Wishing you a prosperous 2014.

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