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15 New Year's resolutions to get you on track in 2020

Morningstar  |  31 Dec 2019Text size  Decrease  Increase  |  
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Whether it's a vow to make 2020 the year you drop those kilos or devote time to developing that side-hustle, this is a time of year when many of us make grand plans for the coming 12 months.

But don't forget your finances when you're making your resolutions for 2020. In case you're in need of inspiration, senior editors Holly Black, Ruth Saldanha and Larissa Fernand asked some of Morningstar's finest around the globe for their financial New Year's resolutions. And we here in Australian have added some of our own. 

Reduce my risk

Christine Benz, director of personal finance at Morningstar US

One long-standing item on my financial to-do list is to look at my husband’s and my asset allocation in total and determine whether we should reposition any investments. Our portfolio is quite equity-heavy relative to any sane recommendation for people our age, but we don’t pay much attention to the market’s short-term fluctuations and consider ourselves extremely risk tolerant.

But I’m mindful of the fact that the last time this tolerance was tested was more than 10 years ago during the financial crisis, when we were 10 years younger and 10 years further from retirement. If stocks go down and stay down for a sustained period, it will likely feel much different – and much worse – than it did on the last go round.

Be prepared

Syl Flood, chief content strategist at Morningstar US

I need to rebalance my investments – part of the problem is that I own some turkeys (funds that haven’t flown) and I should really accept those mistakes and move the money elsewhere. Elsewhere, I vow to reduce unnecessary spend on home security, a landline phone and home insurance and, more morbidly, I need to write my will (sorry, I won’t be writing any of you in).

Finally, I need to buy a personal liability insurance policy. Someone tripped on a crack in the pavement in front of my friend’s house recently; the person sustained a head injury and my friend was sued. Yes, Americans sometimes live up to their litigious reputation. But luckily my friend had personal liability insurance, so the incident didn’t cost her – although the hassle was quite a distraction.

Save money - and calories!

Dan Kemp, chief investment officer at Morningstar Investment Management, EMEA

Most resolutions are broken very quickly, and often it’s because we think about what we want without thinking about how to achieve it and tend to think we can make lots of large changes at once and stick to them.

So, in 2020 I’m going to follow the advice I often give to others: change one small thing by identifying a better strategy to meet a specific need.

My one small thing is to bring a packed lunch into the office every day, something I’ve got out of the habit of over the past couple of years. Not only will this save me money – about £900 ($1687) a year – but it will also save me about 40,000 calories a year, along with all that additional salt and sugar. It also means I’ll make lunch for my family rather than them having to do it themselves – let’s hope it lasts beyond the first rushed morning of the year!

Avoid sibling rivalry

Jon Miller, head of manager research at Morningstar UK

I want to tidy up the Junior Isas, which I invest in for my two daughters. A junior ISA is a special long-term savings account set up by a parent (or guardian) for their children. They were born 18 months apart and their portfolios aren’t quite identical, and neither is the performance. Although the returns haven’t been wildly different, I do regret not making sure the two accounts are investing in the same way.

We often ask relatives to give the girls a cheque at Christmas or birthdays which we can invest into the Isas – it’s sometimes an awkward conversation but it means we don’t have an overload of toys and it all goes towards their future.

Pool my pensions

Holly Black, senior editor at Morningstar UK

Considering the active interest I take in investments and in my Isa account, I am woefully uninformed about where my pension is invested. In 2020, I vow to take the time to actually choose where my money is going – this is, after all, what I’ll be relying on in retirement, should I ever get there. I also need to consolidate my pension pots - I have three - and it would make far more sense to have them all in one place, not least so I don’t have to read three pension statements every January.

On a day-to-day basis, I’m going to download a spending app that tells you where all your money is going each month. I suspect the app will very quickly tell me to just stop going into the Marks & Spencer food hall.

Ask an expert

James Gard, content editor at Morningstar UK

I would rather go to the dentist than talk to a stranger about money, but next year I’m going to have to take the plunge and see a financial adviser. I have inherited a lump sum – likely to be my only inheritance – but I can’t decide what to do with it.

Left to my own devices I would put in a savings account and take the 1 per cent a year interest. I don’t want to pay someone to tell me to buy gold ETFs or sink it into a buy-to-let property, but I need an adviser to think of a constructive way of putting the money to work and help me overcome my natural risk aversion. While I want some capital preservation, I have an 8-year-old son and am thinking ahead 10 years to university and beyond and how I can invest the money to help him.

Put my money where my mouth is

Annalisa Esposito, data journalist at Morningstar UK

Last year I took out a subscription to non-profit magazine Ethical Consumer and it made me think I should invest some savings I had in an ethical fund. I thought: why not put this money to good use, instead of letting it sit sadly in my bank account earning virtually no interest? I always wanted to have “an impact” on the world around me, and I felt that my monthly donation to Doctors without Borders wasn’t enough.

But, I never did it – partly for lack of courage and knowledge, and partly through inertia and just never getting around to it.

I didn’t know much about investing and funds at the time but working at Morningstar has taught me the most important lesson: you don’t have to be a millionaire to invest, everyone can do it. Now I have a lot more confidence, I have started to invest in some stocks, and 2020 will be the year I finally invest in some ethical funds.

Stay positive

Gavin Corr, director of manager selection at Morningstar Investment Management EMEA

I am making a new year’s Brexit resolution that I am hopeful will prove to be fruitful financially, and that is to try and remember that bad news is often in the price of assets. Given that I live and work in the eye of the Brexit storm, it is often easy to become disheartened and pessimistic about the state of the UK.

But when I meet overseas fund managers, I am struck by the universally negative opinion they have on UK assets. It’s a stance that contrasts starkly not just with the value that many UK managers are seeing in domestic equities, but also with the global corporate world, who are increasingly looking at UK businesses to buy. The old adage “It’s darkest before the dawn” may apply again and 2020 could prove to be a good year for the UK.

Have a difficult conversation

John Rekenthaler, vice president of research at Morningstar US

I have four investment accounts, not including my wife’s, and my New Year’s resolution is to consolidate them. I’ve put it off because it’s not only something of an operational hassle, but it means moving money away from a financial adviser with whom I have a relationship. It’s not much of a relationship, to be sure, and I don’t make him much money, because I am a self-directed investor, but nevertheless I don’t relish that conversation.

Set the record straight

Graham Hand, editorial director at Morningstar Australia

I should update and automate my financial records. Too many investments by too many legal entities are more trouble than they’re worth. With share purchase plans, dividend reinvestment plans, rights issues, purchases and sales … records become outdated if not constantly tended. Unlisted investments such as property are a particular problem because there are no direct feeds of revaluations and expenses. But not much of a way to spend a few days off.

Spark joy

Mark LaMonica, individual investor product manager at Morningstar Australia

Despite my disdain for the 'Marie Kondo cult', my financial resolution is to simplify my financial life. I recently discovered that my wife and I have 31 separate investment and bank accounts. Yes 31. While I have a perfectly good rationale for each of the accounts, even I have to admit that it is getting a bit excessive.

Not so super yet

Lex Hall, content editor at Morningstar Australia

In 2020 I resolve to shift my superannuation balance into a better performing fund. And wait for overheated Australian stocks to come off the boil before pushing some of the pile in.

Budget basics

Emma Rapaport, editor at Morningstar Australia

When I got my first full-time job I set myself a strict budget, which I'm proud to say I stuck to. X dollars came out of my salary every two weeks into savings. However, as my income increased, the amount I saved didn't rise in proportion. Suddenly, all this extra money in my spending account. The phrase 'treat yo'self' came up a few times. This year, I resolve to re-set my savings in line with my salary and rid myself of financial laziness.

Also, I want 2020 to be the year I finally get more creative with my investments. I've built a well diversified core portfolio, but this year I want to explore. 

Clearing the deck

Glenn Freeman, senior editor at Morningstar Australia

I don't generally place much emphasis on New Year's resolutions, given the failure rate is so astronomically high. But for my wife and I, 2020 will be a year of "clearing the decks" of pesky debt in preparation for a mortgage deposit.

Taking out some life insurance, beyond what's already provided via my superannuation fund, is a secondary goal.

Manage lifestyle creep

Kaustubh Belapurkar, director of fund research at Morningstar India

As discretionary income rises, so does the standard of living. This is not something that happens overnight, it creeps up on you over the years, which makes it all the more dangerous. By allowing my lifestyle to creep higher over time, means that my spending is moving up as my income moves up. And, I would need more to retire because I have a more expensive lifestyle to maintain. I have decided to be more cognisant of lifestyle creep. Which means that I spend judiciously. This will automatically lead to a higher savings.

Frugal living

Larissa Fernand, senior editor at Morningstar India

I am not in the habit of making new year resolutions because I fall in the 80 per cent of people who will fail at their New Year's resolutions by the end of January. But this year, I am attempting an experiment with frugality. Every two months, I plan to practice frugality for the last two weeks. For instance, no Ola or Uber or even kaali peeli cabs during those days, just public transport. No eating out, just home cooked food. My goal is not complete self-denial, but to push myself and test the boundaries and find out what works and what doesn’t.

Why am I doing this? Because, despite writing about the merits of saving, I am often lured into consumerism. Since I have zero credit card debt, no liabilities and no dependents, I should be saving and investing much more than I am. And let’s face it, every single year, we are one year closer to retirement.

Bucket!

Ruth Saldanha, senior editor at Morningstar Canada

I want to do a whole bunch of things in the short-term, but never seem to have enough money! But then I realised, it’s probably because my money is in a vague “investment” account where “things” happen to it. Of course, I know what my long-term goals are, and I know where the money is invested, but short-term? Not so much. So in 2020, I resolve to create buckets for each short-term goal and invest a small amount every month in each bucket. I’ll have a bucket each for travel, music concerts, and Christmas 2020 too!

Get uncomfortable

Andrew Willis, content editor at Morningstar Canada

Financial decisions and negotiations should be stressful. A short period of discomfort and inconvenience pales in comparison to the long-term savings and pride of getting a good deal. I've made some progress, going through the inconvenience of switching bank accounts and mortgages to a credit union along with ditching the Big 3 telecom companies for my cellphone and internet service, yielding nearly identical (often better) service and five-figure savings. My next moves, however, will be rather uncomfortable. For my next home purchase, I resolve to requesting my real estate broker share his commissions if I do my own research and only do a few viewings. I resolve to moving all my investment accounts to a discount broker without trading fees. And I resolve to using the warranty on some big-ticket items at home that have broken down. It's amazing how much you can save by simply asking for what you deserve.

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