Looking for new ideas, I came across hundreds of articles explaining how to prepare for 2013. There are a lot of things to do, but why limit it to 2013? You should prepare for every New Year by doing a few things. If you did not start a couple weeks ago, it is not too late, but no more procrastinating! Here are my five (5) things I do every year and you should too.
Every year I clean out my files! I take my current year files and put them in a storage box and start new files for the New Year. Transferring the files takes about ten (10) minutes, but I use the opportunity to start my tax spreadsheet. My spreadsheet represents a summary and checklist of everything I normally receive in January. I use it as an organized method to get all my tax information together. It is really good to do this in the prior year so you can do something about your taxes. In case you missed it, I wrote about year-end tax planning tips in early December.
Taking action to avoid higher taxes is prudent. A little planning can save you a bundle! Of course, it depends what your tax bracket is, but you should think about how you can lower your tax bill all year, don’t wait until December to make decisions. There are investments that can be more tax efficient, tax deferred or tax free. If you are not thinking about this, you should discuss it with your CPA or tax attorney and do some tax planning together. An hour’s worth of planning can save you much more than the fee. He or she can discuss your choices and you determine which ones you should make.
Strategic planning is a plan of an organization’s direction, aligns its resources with goals and execution of objectives to achieve their mission or vision. It sounds a lot like goals that everyone should set for themselves, but longer term. If you do not have goals and an action plan you probably are not serious about achieving your goals. How often do you set goals for long term such as retirement, children’s education or your career? If you don’t, how do you expect to achieve these goals. I am not talking about New Year’s Resolutions here, but long term goals that are years away from now.
I remember doing something like this when I was thirty-one (31) years old. I don’t remember exactly what month I sat down and started planning, but roughly seven (7) years later I achieved financial freedom. If that is not enough to motivate you, you don’t really want to achieve it anyway! If this sounds like too much planning, think again! SMART goals generated by a strategic plan are unstoppable. It is never too late to start planning. There is a reason, successful companies take a lot of time to do a five (5) year plan. You may want to develop a long range plan and include shorter plans as part of it. You can revise your plans periodically, but it gives you the structure to help you achieve your goals.
Reflecting on your accomplishments is fun! Reflecting on your misses or mistakes requires an action plan. Analyzing your results means looking into the reasons for failure. It is not enough to just identify your mistakes, but you must execute an action plan to achieve your goals. Successful people do this all the time and turn failure into success. You learn from your successes and failures! What changes do you make to succeed? If the new efforts fail, you make more changes. Professional athletes change their training when they are not achieving the desired results. Then they practice until they get the desired results and keep practicing after they achieve the results. We should all approach our goals like pro athletes! You need to monitor your progress and adjust your efforts in order to succeed. Remember quitters never win!
The process of improving oneself through activities such as enhancing employment skills, awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital , enhance quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations. This may require additional education or training. It is what you need individually to get to the next step. It may be a promotion, a different career, a personal finance class, weight loss, yoga, learning a sport or recreation. It is what you want to work on to help you be better or more successful at work, with family or personal life. It can range from joining Toastmasters to learning to play golf. You can start with the skills you have and add the skills you need to make you better. Why wait, just do it!
Year-end things that can be done anytime
Too often, people put things off to a certain date such as starting a diet on a Monday as if there is something magical about Monday.
- Review investments – I usually re-balance my portfolio in December. You can evaluate your asset allocation at any point during the year. It is best, if you do it at the same time each year though.
- Organization – Process of organizing something. Whether you arrange your desk, closet, cabinets, home or work. This is a continuous process. I routinely organize my desk every week or two. You can organize files, computer files and use organizational tools to make yourself more effective.
- Budgeting – Usually this should be done along with your annual planning process. You can start r revise your budgeting throughout the year. If things change, you may have to revise your budget multiple times a year. I usually revise when income changes or expenses change dramatically.
- Career planning – Many people feel this only occurs when you start your career. You should take an active role in your promotions or the direction of your career. This includes changing employers or starting a business. Are you learning the skills necessary for that next promotion or job?
- Capital spending – It would be terrific if you could schedule your capital spending! In the business world, capital spending is estimated and part of a five (5) year plan. You know that your appliances, cars, furnace, water heater, A/C, roof do not last forever. You can estimate and set up savings for these replacements.
- Estate planning/insurance/savings – If you do not address these issues, someone will! Having a will/trust, health-care proxy (medical power of attorney), insurance needs and retirement/savings . There are no magic dates to address these issues. It is easy to procrastinate, but you shouldn’t. There is always someone who will live with your mistakes and it will be your spouse and children. Review your estate documents annually!
I tried to give you some of the things I do or check every year. Some of which I do during the fourth quarter such a tax planning. Others such as strategic planning, reflection on your goals, developing an action plan, personal development etc can be done annually on any date. When I started one of my first strategic plans, I just created it! It was for roughly eight and a half (8 1/2) years. Just because traditional plans are for five (5) or ten (10) years does not mean you have to adhere to it. The longer the period, the less likely it will be accurate. Remember, you still need to derive your annual goals from this longer plan as well as an annual budget. You either prepare for 2013 or plan to fail!
Photo by: grongar
You either prepare for 2013 or plan to fail!