If you’re falling behind on your 2021 financial goals, rest assured — it’s totally normal. Look at the year we just emerged from — it was a nightmare. And much of that nightmare has continued amid political unrest and the viciously ongoing pandemic that has claimed 460,000 lives in the U.S.
“We’ve seen during 2020 leading into 2021, the turmoil associated with the economic fallout due to COVID-19 and associated job losses is unprecedented. There has been social unrest, injustice and widespread economic inequality,” said Keisha Blair, an economist, policy expert and author. “It has become clear that in order to reset financial goals in 2021 — and this is something I tell my coaching clients — the emphasis has to be on achieving financial resilience (i.e. the ability to bounce back financially after a life-altering setback) and financial resourcefulness as a part of financial goals for 2021 and wealth building.”
Budgeting 101: How To Create a Budget You Can Live With
But how do you reset your goals when the circumstances of life still feel pitted against you? Here’s what money experts recommend when your expectations go awry or you feel like everything is beyond your control.
Last updated: Feb. 10, 2021
You're Confused by the Wildness on Wall Street
Like Blair said, we’ve seen a lot in 2020 and 2021, and that includes what’s happened on Wall Street. If you’ve been impacted by the ups and downs, consider resetting by reviewing and rebalancing your investment accounts. This, according to Pam Krueger, founder and CEO of Wealthramp, is the main driver to manage your risk and boost returns.
“Look at how much money you have in stocks, bonds, real estate and cash, and then bring your percentages in each asset category back into alignment to where you originally intended. Why? Because over the past year the overall market has risen by 16% and tech stocks experienced even greater growth,” Krueger said. “If you haven’t looked at your retirement portfolio for a year or longer because your mindset was ‘staying the course’ to allow the assets to grow as the market continued to perform well, you can expose yourself to more risk than necessary. The value of your portfolio is now much greater compared to a year ago and you likely may have far too much in one particular category or company and not realize it.”
You Thought You'd Be Able To Afford Financial Help by Now
With the economy still unstable and job loss still high, plans like hiring a professional to execute important financial documents (like a will), boost your credit score or navigate life insurance might have been set on the back burner. That’s OK; you can still get started on those goals by using low-cost tools online.
“Digital tools make it easy and more affordable to tackle these financial goals from home,” said Andrea Woroch, money savings expert. “For instance, digital insurance companies like Bestow eliminate medical examinations, making it fast and affordable to get adequate coverage to protect your family’s financial future. Meanwhile, you can skip the expensive estate planning attorney and set up a will online at sites like TrustandWill.com for as little as $89. They offer step-by-step instructions and you can print the legal documents right from home, which includes power of attorney, health directives and guardianship for your kids. [A company called] Self offers credit builder loans where you make small payments to yourself over the course of 1 to 2 years and at the end of the term, your payments unlock in the form of savings while improving your credit score.”
You're Still Out of Work
Everyone wants to make more money, but some people need to make more money because their salary has been shredded by the pandemic. It’s worth coming up with a few side hustles to stay afloat. Financial expert Ross Mac offered the following ideas to make some quick bucks:
Build an online store; use Amazon, Etsy, eBay, etc.
Invest in real estate and the stock market
Join the sharing economy (using Airbnb or Turo)
Create a service business
Develop an e-book (a downloadable education book on any topic that you like)
Start freelancing (using sites like Upwork/Fiverr)
“In today’s gig economy, interesting work is available at more than the local mall,” said Sean Fox, co-president of Freedom Debt Relief. “Even in COVID times, online opportunities exist. Once the pandemic eases, there will be part-time jobs at places like performing arts centers, sports venues, conference centers and hotels. House-sitting, pet-sitting, pet care and personal assistant positions are still in demand.”
You're Exhausted and Don't Even Want To Know Your Credit Score
We’re nearly a year into the pandemic. We’re tired. We’re grieving. We’re trying to get vaccinated as new variants of the coronavirus erupt. Amid all this chaos, who has the time (or even the motivation) to dig into their credit reports, or worse, pay for one. If you act relatively quickly, you can get a free credit report weekly.
“Through the end of April 2021, you can get a free credit report each week from all three main consumer reporting agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com,” said Todd Christensen, an accredited financial counselor and author of “Everyday Money for Everyday People.” “Pulling your own credit report has absolutely no effect on your credit rating. Review your free credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com to get a clear picture of how much money you owe and to whom.”
Sure, this won’t take away the potential pain of finding out that your credit is in dire shape, but at least you’ll know (at no cost) so that you can take action. Additionally, you might be pleasantly surprised to discover that things aren’t as bad as you feared.
You Thought You'd Be Vaccinated by Now
“For parents or caregivers with young children or anyone who hoped to have been vaccinated by now, it can be as frustrating as it is stressful,” said Marguerita Cheng, CFP and financial reviewer at Annuity.org. “Financial planning has both the strategy (big picture) and tactics (adjustments). I’d say that it’s important to balance shorter-term needs, the day to day, with long-term goals (education & retirement). As a CFP professional, I spend a lot of my time listening to my clients’ concerns and helping them navigate the financial decisions that arise. I think it is important to understand that it is okay to make adjustments to your financial plan. A financial plan serves as a road map and sometimes we may have to change course. Having the financial plan can help guide decisions.”
For example, Cheng continued, if you were used to contributing the maximum to your retirement plan, but experienced a reduction in your income and need to reduce your contribution rate to 6%, it is certainly an appropriate response. “It’s an understanding of the situation that many of our relatives, friends and members of our community are experiencing.”
You're Worried That You Can't Afford the Joys of the World 'Opening Back Up'
The world is gradually opening back up, but can you afford a stylish new haircut or a fancy dinner out? Sure. Just budget for it.
“You can always allot a ‘miscellaneous budget’ for a month to allow you more flexibility,” said Paul Sundin, CPA and tax strategist at Emparion. “However, if you want to keep a tight budget, you can plan your personal expenditures after you have calculated how much extra from the set budget you actually have from that month’s income so you don’t overspend. You can even fit these within budget if you can find alternatives; say, instead of buying or having food delivered, cook your meals for a week straight so you can use the excess budget for a haircut instead.”
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