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If you plan to plan ahead this year, itâ€™s already too late.
The end of the year has a way of sneaking up on us. If it seems like just a few weeks ago you were shaking the sand out of your shorts after a beach vacation, you’re not alone. But the holidays are just about upon us, and if you’re like many dentists saving for retirement, this can be the time of year when your financial plans can go off the rails.
Why? Put simply, if you’re putting away as much as you can for your future self, as much as you can tends to be a little less this time of year. Parties, holiday or end-of-year bonuses for your staff, and gift-buying can get the best of your disposable income.
This year, if you’re determined to stay the course, consider a few tips. First and foremost, develop a plan and stick to it. Here are some fundamentals.
1. Look back to look ahead: Part of knowing where you’re going is knowing where you’ve been. Have you gone back to look at last year’s November and December credit card statements? You should get a better sense of what you actually spent, and compare it to what you plan to spend this year. Did last year’s Santa impersonation leave you cutting back on retirement savings, or scrambling to pay off debt early in the New Year? If so, there may be some steps you can take this year to prevent the same, such as looking for sales or cutting back on spending.
2. Start planning NOW: With Halloween just past, retailers will now turn their full attention to hitting their yearly sales goal targets. The time for great deals is January, of course, but that doesn’t do many holiday shoppers much good. But keep an eye out for special store sales or special events like Cyber Monday. There are deals to be had this time of year—they just require advance preparation so that you know when they’re coming. Get holiday wish lists early so that you can tailor your bargain searching. You’ll get the triple benefit of avoiding the late December crowds, taking advantage of early sales, and crossing off many of those on your list before you even have to stress about the internal temperature of the Thanksgiving turducken.
3. Consider gifts that can’t be wrapped: The holiday season is a great time to think about starting a 529 College Savings Plan or a life insurance plan for a child or a grandchild. It’s a gift that won’t be played with right away, and it might even be received with a groan. But it’s one that may make a huge difference in the recipient’s life. Most important, it’s a gift that, when the recipient is older, will be appreciated long after this year’s hot toy is on the garbage heap.
4. Use debt sparingly and wisely: As always, taking on unexpected debt can not only lead to expenses that magnify through interest, but it can take funds away from investing for your retirement. If you already have a heavy debt load, consider scaling back the gift-giving season, starting the shopping early and paying only in cash, and adjusting your budget accordingly.
The holidays don’t have to mean a temporary suspension of your savings and retirement plan. They may simply require a plan of their own. Do you have one?