Investing a little bit of effort and time in outlining your financial goals will help you to improve your financial situation in 2020. This will also help you to develop a sound long-term strategy for your financial future.
Do Your Taxes Early
Like it or not, the tax season is coming up quickly, and it pays to file your taxes before the deadline. Reporting your eligible expenses and income is far from fun but procrastinating will make it more stressful. The deadline for filing in Canada is April 30, 2020. Early filing also ensures that you receive credit and benefit payments such as the working income tax benefit, GST/HST credit, Canada child benefit, and guaranteed income supplement. Eligible taxpayers are also entitled to claim the Climate Action Incentive if living in New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.
Getting your taxes done early is easier if your income sources include:
- Support payments
- Social assistance
- Employment insurance
- Disability insurance
Completing your tax returns is not as easy if you have rental or business income, are self-employed, have declared bankruptcy during the previous or current year, or have capital losses or gains. In this case, it is important to get your taxes done early to ensure that you have plenty of time to gather all documents and pay taxes that you owe.
To file your taxes, you will need to provide information such as your home address, banking details, number of children, and marital status. You should also report income in the form of benefits, investments, and self-employment and employment income. Claim tax credits, expenses, and deductions to lower the amount you pay. You can complete your tax returns in different ways, including by phone, on paper, and by software.
Fix Your Credit
The first thing to do is plan to get your credit in check regardless of how much you owe. Start by listing all debts that you owe, including due dates, monthly payments, total amount, and creditors. Make sure you update your list to check on your progress and see where you stand. Making timely payments each month is obviously a must. Late and missed payments will affect your credit score and will make it more difficult to pay off your debts. If you have multiple debts, you may want to set alerts to help you avoid late payments. It is also important to decide which debts to pay off first. If you have multiple credit cards, start with the one that carries the highest interest rate. Make sure you make the minimum payment on your other accounts to avoid penalty interest and to stop your debt from growing.
Create a Financial Plan
Setting a budget will help you to stay focused on your financial goals and get control over your money. There are other benefits to setting a budget such as organizing your savings and spending and paying off debt faster. The first step to creating a budget is to look at your income or how much you can afford to spend on a monthly basis. Start by listing different sources of income such as your salary, wages, alimony, and benefit and credit payments. Other sources of income include rental and dividend income, royalty and interest income, and capital gains. Once you get an idea of how much money is coming in, you have to look at your expenses, including fixed and variable expenses. Examples of variable expenses include car maintenance, home repairs, and groceries. Fixed expenses, on the other hand, include things like credit card and loan payments, car insurance, utilities, rent, and service payments such as cell phone, Internet, and cable TV. Compare your income and expenses to see whether you need to adjust your spending to meet your expenses and save enough to achieve your goals. You can either try to increase your income or cut back on both fixed and variable expenses.
Settle Bad Debts
Paying off bad debts will help you to improve your credit score. Such debts are in collections because you are unable to pay them back. The best thing you can do is settle or pay the full outstanding balance. First contact your debt collector and try to negotiate a settled payment in exchange for deleting the account from your report. Offer an amount that is smaller than what you owe. If this doesn’t work, then offer a full payment to get the account removed.
Make a Long-term Savings Goal
The first step to making a savings goal for yourself is to actually name your goal. Examples of goals include creating an emergency fund, saving to pay off debt, and saving for down payment, your kid’s education, or retirement. Examine your goals to decide whether they are long-term, mid-term, or short-term. Long-term goals such as retirement and college education require a lot of money and careful planning and take several years to achieve. Mid-term goals such as paying off credit card debt or buying a new car do not take as long to achieve but certainly longer than short-term ones. Short-term goals, on the other hand, take one year or less and include things like buying a new washing machine or going on vacation.
Find a Financial Planner
If you lack basic knowledge of debt management, investment, and financial planning, you may want to use the services of a financial advisor. Advisors have expertise across a wealth of topics such as tax strategies, wealth management, insurance coverage, budgeting, and saving. They can help you to develop a financial plan and stick to it as to achieve your long-term and short-term goals. Your advisor will help you to choose from different types of insurance coverage such as disability, term life, and long term care. You may be asked to fill in a detailed questionnaire to help assess your financial situation. The questionnaire typically includes questions about your expenses, sources of income, assets and liabilities, and future income and retirement income sources. The answers will help your advisor to assess your financial strength and risk tolerance. The financial plan that you develop with your advisor will be based on your liquid capital, assets and liabilities, and net worth.
Ready to Invest?
Finding new companies to invest in can be tricky, especially if you have little or no experience. In this case, you may want to invest in companies across different sectors in S&P, including health care, consumer discretionary, industrial, consumer staple, energy, and material. Other sectors to look into are utility, real estate, telecom, technology, and financial. Choose companies that are good for growth or value investing. The approach that you choose to include companies in your portfolio depends on your financial goals and risk profile. If you have a low-risk profile, then consider dividend stocks. Growth stocks are a good option for those who wish to invest in long term growth while value investing is a preferable choice if you are looking for stocks that are trading below their book or intrinsic value.